Should You Use New Hire Probationary Periods? I say No!


The short answer is in an at-will state they have little use.  At-will employment means an employee can be dismissed for any reason, without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal.

Probationary periods can be a disadvantage to employers. Having completed the allotted time—usually 30 to 90 days—an employee may believe he or she has achieved a new employment status.  You don’t want employees to have the expectation they are “in” when in truth you can terminate them the following month.  That expectation can lead to law suits if you do terminate them.

The only time I would say you might want to use the probationary period, is if you are unionized and have a collective bargaining agreement.  In this case the worker can be fired during that period consistent with the employment-at-will standard. But once the union employee has passed probation, he or she can generally only be fired for "just cause" after exhausting the grievance procedures.

Welcome each new hire with a well-structured onboarding process that follows up at days 30, 60 and 90.  If you are doing a lot of hiring, set up an automated onboarding system.  It will ensure your people do the things they need to learn the job and automatically set up check in times for the appropriate people.