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My employer has extended my probation after my end of probation was verbally confirmed during (an admittedly difficult) end of probation review meeting).

My contract allows probation of up to 6 months and for my boss to confirm status verbally. It also allows for extension of probation.

My end of probation review meeting took place a few days before the 6 months ended as I was on holiday - the sole purpose of the meeting was to discuss end of probation. The extension notification was received in writing on last day of 6 month, however, I don’t believe this is valid as I wasn’t on probation on the date of the letter (and my contract doesn’t allow for new probationary periods).

Below are the notes from the conversation with my boss. I left the end of probation meeting with a clear understanding that I was no longer on probation.

Is it worth consulting a lawyer about a case for wrongful dismissal if I am let go?

Boss: “Let’s give you another 6 months and allow you to map out clear path to get to the numbers that you said you’d get to.”

Me: “So you would like to extend my probation?”

Boss: “No, I’m not going to extend your probation.”

Me: “I can work with that. It’s clear the communication between us hasn’t been right and I will address this”

Later in the same meeting:

Boss: “I think you’re going to be successful. If I didn’t think you’re going to be then we wouldn’t be having this discussion and we wouldn’t be taking you off your probation.”

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  • Sounds frustrating, although this ultimately seems like a scenario better taken before a lawyer who can review the contracts and is familiar with case law than submitted in an online forum.
    – dbeer
    Jan 21 '20 at 21:00
  • Verbal agreements are difficult. That is why it's useful and recommended to have everything in writing...
    – DarkCygnus
    Jan 21 '20 at 21:01
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    "My contract allows probation of up to 6 month..... It also allows for extension of probation." You should see a lawyer, those two statements seem to contradict each other.
    – sf02
    Jan 21 '20 at 21:02
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    @obe There is no dismissal. The OP had a probation extended. Jan 21 '20 at 23:48
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    @sf02 seeing a lawyer would be a waste of time and money
    – motosubatsu
    Jan 22 '20 at 12:51
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Be careful not to overreact.

It's real easy to get upset when you think you are going down one good path and you find yourself on another. But getting upset will only make things worse for you. So far you haven't been dismissed, and you should stop thinking about it and focus on making it not happen.

One perfectly plausible way that you ended up here was that your boss thought you were doing OK and didn't want to extend your probation. But when he went to HR with that, for some reason they thought your probation should be extended. Possibly there is some technical reason. Maybe they just want to play it safe. In any case, if your boss doesn't think your probation needs extending it's unlikely he is going to fire you if you keep doing a decent job.

The first thing to do is to go to your boss and clarify the situation. Don't get upset or try to get the decision reversed, but instead get his take on whether your current performance is enough for you to pass the extended probation, or if you need to be doing something more. If he thinks your current performance is OK then just get on with it - do a good job and don't make trouble. If he doesn't then either do what he suggests to improve and/or start looking around for something else.

After that check in with your boss every so often to see what he thinks of your performance. A failed probation should never come as a surprise, but it might do if you don't ask him. If you get indications that you might not pass, start looking for another job before it happens.

Don't worry about unfair dismissal. Thinking about it will distract you from doing a good job. And even in the absolute best case, the most you could hope for would be that in the event of your being let go you would get the amount of compensation you would have been due if they had not extended the probation. That's going to be a couple of weeks pay at most.

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  • I'm not familiar with UK employment law but for your last paragraph, suppose he is dismissed and court rules that probabition was already over at the time. In the US, a few weeks of pay is the best he could hope for. In Germany, there would be no easy way for them to fire him at all. So they would have to negotiate something that OP agrees with, which would be a lot more expensive than a few weeks of pay. How is the situation in the UK?
    – quarague
    Jan 22 '20 at 7:45
  • @quarague the situation in the UK is that unless there is very clear discrimination there is very little you can do. Protection from unfair dismissal (other than discrimination) only kicks in after 2 years of employment.
    – MattR
    Jan 22 '20 at 9:20
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I don’t believe this is valid as I wasn’t on probation on the date of the letter

Sadly (because this is a bit poor of the organisation IMHO) the extension sounds valid - assuming you are quoting your boss correctly they hadn't taken you off probabtion, they had an expressed an intention not to extend it.

All your notes indicate is a discussion of whether your probation would be extended - not whether it was ending that day, so the probabtion period was still merrily running until expiry at the end of the 6 months. The notification of the extension was delivered to you before it expired. So it's annoying for sure - they have basically gone back on what your boss said in the meeting but from the information you've provided they are entitled to do that.

Do I have a case for wrongful dismissal if I am let go?

No - unless you are let go as a direct result of discrimination or for what is classed as an "automatically unfair" reason you can't challenge a dismissal in your first two years. When it comes to dismissals probation periods only matter so far as the contract specifying different terms regarding things like notice period and severance packages during them, not whether you can be let go or what for. Basically, you're just as fire-able the day after your probation ends as you are the day before.

On the upside I think you're overthinking this - at the end of the day you are still there and if they wanted you gone you'd be gone. Don't panic and just carry on doing the best job you can and take it as it comes.

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