By Silke Rathbone, Principal Partner, Labour Excel

Probation periods – there will always be hard-pressed questions around this topic!

Is it fair, is it necessary, and is it legal?

The simple answer is yes, it is legal, and unless you are not competent as you should be to hold the position you have been appointed in, you too would consider it fair and even necessary.

In South Africa, the standard probationary period is three months, with the most significant criterion being that it be “fair” and dependant on the type of position/complexity of the role you hold.

Why is probation necessary?

A probationary period is meant to review an employee’s job performance over a reasonable, mutually agreed-upon amount of time for the employer to evaluate whether the employee is suited for the position/reached the expected standard they have been assigned, prior to confirming a permanent appointment.

Who benefits from a probation period?

Both employers and employees find probation periods valuable, because employers can evaluate whether a candidate is a good cultural fit and has reached the expected standard of performance. At the same time, employees can evaluate whether they like the culture of the company and whether they are able to fulfil the position they have been appointed in. 

What records should be kept during the probationary period?

In practice, the employer must make sure that managers or supervisors know about these rules and that they keep detailed written minutes and records of:

➼ Performance review meetings/check-ins with the employee, to make sure that the employee knows what is expected from him/her;


➼ Identify what areas (if any) there are that need improvement;


➼ Deadlines/give enough time for the employee to improve his/her performance;


➼ Inform the employee what will happen (next steps) if the company is not happy with his/her performance.


What do employees often forget during their probation period?

Employees often forget that a company can decide not to appoint you on a permanent basis even if you have been performing but are not deemed to be a good fit for the company.

Labour Excel specialises in offering a variety of Labour Law and HR Solutions. Silke Rathbone, one of the Principal Partners, has crafted and honed her skillset and assists corporates and individuals along the Labour journey to ensure they understand what is required of them at all levels.

Get your business featured in the next edition of PSL

New call-to-action