Probationary Period and Termination

In a general sense, a probationary period is a time where an employee’s skills and abilities are tested and evaluated by their employer. Probationary periods can aid employers in choosing employees that are a good fit for their business.  Employers usually specify the length of time of a probationary period and upon the conclusion, decide if they will offer continued employment to the employee.

Some employers use a probationary period as a means to determine if/when the employee will qualify for group benefits. In these cases, the employer may set whatever probationary period they want as long as it doesn’t impact the Notice Period or any other provision under the Employment Standards Code (the Code).

Probationary periods in relation to the termination notice period is typically where there is confusion for both employers and employees. The first 29 days of employment may be considered a probationary period for the purposes of termination notice under the Code.  During this time, either party in the employment agreement – employee or employer – may terminate the arrangement without notice.

If an employee has worked greater than 29 days, notice must be provided. Notice of termination is the period of time an employee or an employer is required to give the other before ending employment. During this time, employees continue to work their regular hours and perform their regular duties at the same rate of pay.  The amount of notice owed, is based on the number of years an employee has been working for the same employer and can be found on our termination fact sheet at:,terminate-employment-after-apr-30-07,factsheet.html.   

Employers cannot give less than the required notice period. Any agreement between an employee and employer that is less than the minimum is not valid.  The only exclusion is in a unionized workplace where a collective agreement exists.

The following investigation was conducted by Employment Standards on the issue of probationary periods in relation to termination notice:

There were concerns on a recent claim investigation of a business that the employer was not properly following termination rules. Specifically, they were terminating employees without notice, and according to their own probationary period rather than the less than 30 day exception. We formally followed-up on education of the employer by issuing a Notice to Comply. This will allow possible penalties if we were to find continued non-compliance on future claims where the employer relies on their own probationary period.