Trial periods are an important tool to protect employers from hiring an employee who may not have the right skills or work ethic required for the job. They are for new employees only.
A trial period can be up to 90 days in length and has to be part of the employment agreement. The employment agreement has to be signed by both parties before any work is commenced to have legal grounds.
You can only use a trial period if you have 19 or less employees when the new staff member signs their employment agreement. Once the trial period ends, it cannot be extended and the new employee becomes permanent.
If you do decide to dismiss the employee within the trial period, their notice period still applies. They cannot raise a personal grievance against you on the grounds of unfair dismissal. However, they can raise a personal grievance against you if they are under the impression you have discriminated against them or harassed them.
It is prohibited to use a fixed-term contract in place of a trial or probation. You can only hire an employee on a fixed-term contract if there is a genuine reason for the job to only last a certain period of time e.g. cover for parental leave.
Mediation can be useful if you run into any problems. Find out more about free, private and confidential employment mediation services here.
Please note a probation period is different from a trial period. Find out more about probation periods and laws here.