You’ve just scored that great new job. Congratulations! But then you discover your new employer wants to put you “on trial”. What does this mean for you?

In December 2023, changes were made to employment legislation around the use of trial periods. Fear not! With the help of our top tips, a trial period needn’t feel like the bogeyman lurking in your employment agreement. We’ll break down what you need to know.

What’s changed?

Previously a trial period could only be used for organisations with 19 employees or less; the new changes now allow trial periods to be used by organisations of any size.

Time is on your side

The employer must give you sufficient time and opportunity to consider the terms of your employment agreement, including a trial period, and seek advice, before you sign on the dotted line.

They can’t put you on trial after you’ve started

A trial period clause can’t be inserted into your employment agreement after you set foot through the door. And a trial period clause is invalid if both parties haven’t signed the written employment agreement, containing the clause, before ‘day one’.

It’s also important to note that if you have ever worked for that employer previously, they can’t include a trial period in your new employment agreement.

90 days – more or less?

You might not realise, but the trial period can be shorter (but not longer) than 90 days. If for any reason you are not comfortable with 90 days, you can try negotiating a shorter period with your employer.

In our view, though, a 90-day period is best for both you and them, as it’s a suitable period for you to get to know each other properly.

It’s important to note that a trial period, once fixed, can’t be extended and the length of your trial period must be stated in your contract.

It’s calendar days

Weekends and statutory days are included in your trial period. So mark the end date on your calendar!

Always get legal advice

Great advice in itself, but what if you don’t have the means to pay by-the-hour for an employment lawyer? Well, the community law office is a great place to start – it’s free and extremely useful. Find your local community law office here.

Your notice period stands, if things change

If you are dismissed within the trial period, your employer must allow you the full notice period outlined in your employment agreement. Don’t accept anything less.

Know your rights

If your employer dismisses you without telling you why, you have the right to ask. Regardless of trial periods, the employer must act in good faith, although they don’t have to give you a reason in writing. You also have the right to mediation services if you need them, and you can’t be dismissed on grounds that are discriminatory – but we recommend you seek legal advice to fully understand what this means.

If you become part of a collective employment agreement in your new role that doesn’t include a trial period clause, you can’t be put on a trial period as this contradicts the terms of the collective agreement. For those that do include a trial period, your employer must be consistent with those terms and can’t deviate from what is laid out in the collective agreement. Make sure you read any employment documents carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

We hope you find our top tips on the trial periods useful. Please let us know if you’d like more help: we’re always happy to be a sounding board at any time, to help point you in the right direction.

Good luck with that job!
Kirsty and Nikki

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