Do you have to put a new employee who is not performing on PIP when they are still on probation?

HR states that an employee must be put on PIP even though they are on probation, Is this a must for the UK?


It's not a matter of going against HR policies, my question is about understanding the process, so if required I would know what points I could raise with HR to discuss this policy with them.

  • 3
    Does it really matters what the law says? If your HR department says you have to do it, you have to do it. – Philip Kendall Feb 28 at 10:05
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    @PhilipKendall yeah it does. The Law trumps HR. If putting them on a PIP is fine within the confines of the law, which you'd assume would be HRs guidance, then it's fine. – MattR Feb 28 at 10:09
  • Can the OP clarify: Are you asking if all new employees should be put on a PIP when they start their probation (sounds ridiculous but I've known a company do it 'just in case..'), or are you asking why there is a need to put an employee on a PIP if they are already on probation (presumably they could just sack them)? – Dave Gremlin Feb 28 at 10:10
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    @MattR But HR departments are free to implement their own rules and regulations above and beyond what the law requires. So long as the HR rules don't conflict with the law, it doesn't matter what the law says. – Philip Kendall Feb 28 at 10:14
  • @DaveGremlin only for employee who we think don't meet expectations – Mathematics Feb 28 at 10:38

As per usual, you should have a catchup session with the employee involved and talk about their performance and your expectations before a formal PIP is put in place. Discuss what the employee needs in order to help them improve.

If you've already had one or more of these informal discussions without any significant improvement, then a PIP is appropriate, as per HR advice.

It should be that simple, but make sure that you cover any other ways of helping this employee to improve before slapping them with a formal process.

How hard you lean one side or the other (ejection or inclusion) obviously depends on whether you feel this employee has the potential to be a valuable team member or not.

  • +1. Sometimes people don't cut it and should be let go, but let's be positive by remembering what the "I" stands for - Improvement. The aim is to help this person to improve and pass their probation, and go on to become a useful and productive employee, which was presumably the reason they were hired in the first place. – Justin Feb 28 at 11:51

There should be stipulations in their contract for dismissal during a probationary period.

A PIP can serve two purposes:

  • Serve as a notice of "improve or you're out". This is a way to legally document the dismissal process for, typically, establish employees.
  • Serve as a point of concern, and to genuinely attempt to improve the employee's performance otherwise they'll be sack.

If you're serving a PIP for the first point, to an employee in their probationary period, you may not need to. Review their contract, as typically UK employment contracts have a "we just need to give you X amount of notice" and you can sack them without reason.

If they don't have this clause in their contract and you sack them without reason, you open yourself up to a gross dismissal case which can be costly.

Check with your legal team/representative/HR for this clause in their contract, and act based on that.


Just seen your note about HR stating you need to put the on a PIP regardless.

Legally speaking you can fire them without reason in their probationary period, but if you have a policy in place that requires a PIP before firing an employee you should follow that. Don't attempt to superceed HR's advice. It won't end well.

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