26 May

Starting a new job, understanding probation and its purpose

Starting a new job can be a daunting experience for most workers. Everything is new and strange, with much to learn about. Newly-employed workers are often quite vulnerable as the absence of adequate guidance can increase the chances of not meeting expectations or of making mistakes.             

Schedule 8(8) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) deals with probation, rights, and obligations of workers and employers. Section 8(1) (a) of schedule 8 states that: ‘An employer may require a newly-hired employee to serve a period of probation before the appointment of the employee is confirmed.’

As a worker, you need to know what your rights and obligations are during probation. This will greatly improve your chances of completing the probation period. In today’s blog, UASA looks at how probation works, the legal requirements, and the procedures involved.

What is the purpose of employing a worker on probation?

According to schedule 8(1) (b) of the LRA, the purpose of probation is to give an employer a chance to assess the worker’s performance and compatibility before deciding whether or riot to confirm the worker’s job. During this period the employer must decide whether or not the worker fits in with the company, can get on with his or her colleagues, is suitable for the job, and is able to perform the tasks the job requires adequately. The employer should assist and guide the worker so that the worker can perform his or her job properly in order to have the appointment to confirm as permanent.

Is probation automatically part of the employment contract?

No, probation does not automatically form part of the employment contract. Probation must be added to the contract of employment. The contract must specifically state that the worker will be on probation. The contract must state how long the probation will be when it will begin, and when it will end.

How long should a period of probation last?

The LRA does not say how Jong a period of probation should last. All the LRA requires is that the employer must decide how long the probation is going to be before taking the worker on. The length of the probation must be reasonable and should relate to the specific type of job. If a job is difficult it may take an employer a longer time to decide whether the worker is suitable or not. The period of probation is generally between 3 and 6 months.

Does a worker have any remedies under the LRA if she or he is unfairly treated or unfairly dismissed while on probation?

Yes, in terms of sections 191(1) (a) and 191(5A) of the LRA, if a worker has been unfairly treated during probation or that she or he has been unfairly dismissed while on probation, the worker may refer a dispute to the CCMA or a bargaining council. In the case of unfair dismissal, the worker must refer to the dispute within 30 days of the dismissal. In the case of an unfair labour practice, the worker must refer the dispute within 90 days of the date on which the unfair labour practice was committed or within 90 days of the date the worker found out about the unfair labour practice.

UASA encourages workers to understand all legal terms included under the probation clause on their work contracts, this will help them to carry on their job tasks and complete their probation period well.

When in doubt call UASA-The Union in your area!

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