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I know it's not all uncommon, but someone I was speaking to today suggested that how companies have probational periods at the start of an employment, usually it isn't favor of the employees.

I used to see why companies have probational period, so that if they hired someone by mistake and they didn't turn out the way they thought , they could let them go. But a company can do this at any time, people could get laid off/fired/let go at at any time. So really a probational period means the company can fire someone for no reason (and without going to court), which doesn't seem fair.

Do I understand this correctly? Is there any benefit to the employee of having a probational period at the beginning of working for a company? Is this a red flag towards the company culture?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Erik, scaaahu, gnat, Chris E, Chris G Oct 18 '16 at 14:26

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    Are you referring to practices in specific countries? In some countries the probational may go both ways to allow company and employee to feel each other out. – psubsee2003 Oct 17 '16 at 23:05
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    Not all countries allow such freedom to terminate employees, hence the formal probation period. – cdkMoose Oct 17 '16 at 23:06
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    Normally being terminated for some reasons eg age, sexual orientation, tu activity or religious belief is still unfair - its not a carte blache for employers – Pepone Oct 17 '16 at 23:10
  • in Spain some companies dont pay for probational periods and do some shady practice by getting free work force firing employes after the end of probational period. – kifli Oct 18 '16 at 6:18
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    I think this need a location tag. It seems what a probation periods means vary by culture. – Erik Oct 18 '16 at 8:00
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The probation period is a two way street. It enables both parties to get to know one another and both can leave without any hard feelings in a short period of time.

If you do not like the company or if the company does not like you, the relationship can be severed quit quickly.

After the probation life gets more complicated. That is good for both parties.

  • @JuhaUntinen then that's just stupidity on the company. So the guy is under-worked for 3 months, and then the company turns around and expects him to suddenly clock in an extra 20%? There's no good reason why a good employee will stay. – Nelson Oct 18 '16 at 6:37
  • @JuhaUntinen I would say that wouldnt be hiding, but more you failing on your part to get your desired Information during your probation period. Unless ofcourse People are being "forced" to "hide" it. – Raoul Mensink Oct 18 '16 at 9:51
  • "quit quickly" should probably be "quite quickly". – a CVn Oct 18 '16 at 13:51
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Your question contains the assumption people could get laid off/fired/let go at any time, which is invalid. It depends on the legislation in the country you are talking about, and the contract between employer/employee.

(Note that you added that your question is about Canada, but we cannot go into Canadian law specifically, because legal matters are off-topic for this site).

In many countries there is a notice period, and even additional labor laws stating that you cannot 'just' end a contract with notice, e.g.:

  • You need specific reasons that could be judged in a court.
  • You may have to spend a certain effort in helping your employee find a new job.
  • You may have to pay an additional salary period or lump sum (often depending on the number of years someone was employed with you).

In a probation period these requirements do not apply.

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In my experience the company benefits the most. Probationary period allows them to get rid of an employee easily if he/she is a bad fit, and they pay people less during the probation period. This can be a substantial saving.

It's open to abuse just like anything else but usually it goes smoothly. So for instance a company hires 30 people, all get permanent jobs after probation, but for 3 or 6 months they were getting paid quite a large percentage less, it all adds up.

Are probational periods a bad sign?

No, they're a normal part of getting a job, and they serve several purposes beneficial to both sides. Just more beneficial to the company, as you would expect.

For example, employers cooperating with Recruiting companies also can have the fulfilled probation period as condition for completing hiring contract.

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    I think paying less during a probation period is a cultural thing? I've only ever heard of it being a period with relaxed rules for quitting/firing, not about being under a different contract or pay. – Erik Oct 18 '16 at 7:59
  • @Erik I'm unsure on that, it's been applicable in all the countries I have worked. But you might be right in others. Even things like bonus's, perks and other stuff have been for permanent staff only. – Kilisi Oct 18 '16 at 8:03
  • In Finland, there is no practical difference between someone on probation compared to a regular employee. The only difference is that it's easier to resign/fire. But it is very easy to fire people in Finland anyway, compared to other European countries. – Juha Untinen Oct 18 '16 at 9:59

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