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I'm about to accept a job with a 90 day probation period. What does this mean and why do these exist? I've heard an input that after that period my salary might increase slightly (my salary is almost 10k below average for engineering). Does this mean if I don't perform to their standards they could decide to let me go after those 90 days or earlier? There's not much in my job offer that states more about it, but days off and vacation begin after it and so do benefits I believe.

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    Can you add a location tag? In germany, you have a decreased notice period during the probation, as has the employer. The mandatory notice period increases the longer you work for your employer - in the beginning it is 1 day, after the probation at least 1 month.
    – Jost
    Mar 11 '20 at 18:51
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    Does this mean if I don't perform to their standards they could decide to let me go after those 90 days or earlier? Depends on the country, but in the U.S. that's typically exactly what it means. You'll often have more frequent formal reviews to make sure that you're progressing according to their expectations. Mar 11 '20 at 18:59
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    Related, regarding Probations in Germany (@Jost): What is a probation period in contracts?
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 11 '20 at 19:38
  • This is location specific. In Argentina, for example, this is the period where the employer can terminate the contract without cause, and pay no severance. After this, companies are required to pay severance, to the equivalent of 1 salary for every year worked, in order to fire you without just cause. Almost double that if not given early notice.
    – hjf
    Mar 11 '20 at 20:33
  • Is this actually location specific? I have never heard of any probation period laws. The detail of your probation period are probably defined in your contract
    – Mars
    Mar 12 '20 at 2:22
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I'm about to accept a job with a 90 day probation period. What does this mean and why do these exist?

It means that for 90 days both you and the company have the chance to get a look and feel of each other, to see if you are a good fit for the company, and also for you to realize if this is job is a good fit for you.

Usually this implies that if any party does not wish to continue with each other after the probation period, you can part ways gracefully.

In other words, they could fire you at will, and you could quit at will during this period without major drawbacks or hassle.

It's also usual that during this period you will be given an on-boarding process or introduction, so you can learn your ways around the company.

Does this mean if I don't perform to their standards they could decide to let me go after those 90 days or earlier? There's not much in my job offer that states more about it, but days off and vacation begin after it and so do benefits I believe.

Yes, they could let you go when that period ends or before. You are also in position to quit when or before that period ends.

It's likely that as you stated vacations, PTO, and other benefits start counting after the Probation Period.

In most cases, when the Probation Period ends and both parties are happy and wish to continue, a new contract is made and signed, where more permanent arrangements and benefits can be reached.

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    I've never seen or heard of a new contract being signed after the probation period--the probation period explanation has always been in the original contract. In fact, normally there isn't even any actual mention that the probation period ended--for the most part it's just a formality and no one even thinks about it unless something is wrong
    – Mars
    Mar 12 '20 at 2:14
  • Especially in Germany, there are extremely employee-friendly laws. The bigger th company, the harder it would be to get you out again. Probation period is the life insurance for employers to get rid of non-fits. Notice period is zero in that time. I've never seen a company make use of this, though.
    – Jessica
    Mar 12 '20 at 10:01
  • @Jessica: I’ve seen someone being asked to leave after just two hours. Admittedly he was an absolute idiot. Told his supervisor to do a job herself because it was beneath him.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 12 '20 at 14:52
  • @gnasher729: how on earth did someone like this manage to get past an interview...? ;-)
    – Jessica
    Mar 13 '20 at 15:42
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It really depends on the your location and the labor laws that apply, as well as whether or not your place of work or your industry is unionized. In my case, I had a probation period of 1 month, and during that time, both me and my employer were meant to evaluate each other, and decide whether or not we are a good fit. If either of us would have decided that this will not work out, we could have ended it without any notice period.

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Does this mean if I don't perform to their standards they could decide to let me go after those 90 days or earlier?

This depends on the country and what kind of contract you have, but in the U.S. at least that's typically exactly what it means. (In at-will employment states, they could technically fire you at any time, even outside the probation period, and for any non-illegal reason). Even in other countries and with other "special" kinds of employment contracts (e.g. union contracts), it means something similar to that; at a minimum, the process to fire you during that time (even in countries with stricter labor laws than the U.S.) will often be a lot less strenuous.

Many companies that have a probation period will also have some kind of formal process for regular reviews during this period to make sure that you're progressing according to their plan (or, at a minimum, a review at the end of the probation period to make sure that you're performing up their expectations). (Even if you don't have this kind of a process at your company, I'd definitely recommend that you ask them what their expectations are).

It's also not uncommon that your salary and/or benefits will change somewhat after the probation period. You may get a salary review at the end of the probation period, and you may become eligible for certain new benefits (like vacation, additional company-provided insurance, etc.)

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  • At-will employment law doesn't trump contract clauses. If your contract has a probation period, i'd assume it also has Notice clauses, unless there are salary/benefit changes as you mentioned. There may also be a refund in training costs
    – Mars
    Mar 12 '20 at 2:18

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