A guide to probation periods in Ireland

Probationary periods can seem like an uncertain time, but this transitional period can help you get up to speed in your new job.

Share This Post

At the start of any new job, employees typically start with a probation period. It’s usually set out within the contract you sign at the beginning of the engagement, and it’s there to provide a period of time to evaluate employee performance.

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where either party can part ways without the need for a lengthy notice period. Employers may exercise this right if they feel an employee doesn’t have the skills needed for the role, or an employee may end their probation if the company isn’t a right fit.

In this article, we’re looking at probation periods in Ireland, including the rights you have as an employee during the trial period.

What is a probation period?

An employment relationship is an important decision for both parties. You’re both investing time into one another, and the engagement can last for many years. It’s important to ensure the employee and the employer are a good fit for one another.

The probation period is a fundamental part of the hiring process, serving as a trial phase. It allows both the employer and the employee to evaluate the suitability of the employment match. 

During this trial phase, employers can assess the employee’s skills, work ethic, and compatibility with the company culture. On the other hand, employees can decide if the job meets their career goals and workplace expectations. 

The probation period ensures both parties can make informed decisions about continuing the employment relationship before fully committing.

Key features of probation periods

Probation periods in Ireland typically range from three to six months. This will depend on the role as some positions may need a more extended observation period, such as technically demanding roles. 

Employees are assessed on various competencies relevant to their roles during this time. Employers will look at factors like interpersonal skills, cultural fit within the team, technical skills, and general employee conduct.

Feedback should be provided regularly to ensure employees are progressing as expected. There should also be opportunities for employees to ask questions related to their learning and overall role. 

Expectations should be set out during the initial onboarding session so employees can feel safe during their probation. The employer should set out things like general duties and performance metrics.

What is the probation period in Ireland?

The standard probation period in Ireland cannot exceed six months, according to the European Union (Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions) Regulations 2022. However, this can be extended to twelve months under exceptional circumstances, such as prolonged employee absence.

These exceptional circumstances are only permitted when they benefit the employee. For example, if an employee is off work due to sickness, there may need to be more time to determine their suitability for the role adequately. In this instance, extending the probation period is preferable to avoid termination.

Rights and responsibilities during probation in Ireland

Employees in Ireland are entitled to the same rights as regular employees when working their probation period. The right to fair wages, employee benefits, access to statutory leave, and safe working conditions are included. However, protection against dismissal under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1997-2015 generally doesn’t apply until one year of service,

The employer and the employee have the right to terminate the contract at any time during the probation period. Even so, employers can’t dismiss an employee for discriminatory reasons, including race, religion, age, gender, and pregnancy.

Employers must set out the terms of the probation period at the onset of employment. This includes the duration, expectations, and conditions under which the probationary period may be extended. 

Termination and resignation during probation: Legal Insights

While employees in Ireland can be terminated during the probation period if they fail to meet the required performance standards, this termination of contract in Ireland must adhere to fair procedures. This is true even if full employment rights under the Unfair Dismissals Acts have yet to be applicable. 

Employers should provide employees with reasons for potential dismissal and, where possible, an opportunity to improve their performance.

If an employee’s performance or conduct is found lacking, employers must ensure that any dismissal is not only procedurally fair but also substantiated by proper documentation. This documentation should include records of any reviews, feedback given to the employee, and any training or support provided to help them meet job requirements. 

Normal employment protections apply if an employer terminates employment during probation for reasons other than performance, such as redundancy or business closure.

New rules on probationary periods in Ireland

In Ireland, recent legislative updates have introduced significant changes to the management of probationary periods in your employment contract. These regulations aim to improve predictability and transparency for both employees and employers.

The rules are part of broader effort under the European Union (Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions) Regulations 2022, which seek to standardise employment practices across member states and offer greater protection and clarity to workers.

Most notable is the restriction on the length of probationary periods. Previously, some contracts had no standardised length with bloated probationary terms. Under the new regulations, this is capped at six months, although it will be common to see probations limited to three months or even less.

FAQs about probation periods in Ireland

Here are some common questions and answers about probation periods in Ireland:

Failing the probation period: Common reasons & how to overcome it?

Failing a probation period is usually due to poor performance. Your employer should help support you with regular feedback, but if your performance doesn’t improve, they may choose to terminate the contract. 

If you’re worried about failing the probation period for any reason, reach out to your line manager or coworkers to ask for advice on anything you’re struggling with. 

Extension of probation periods: What you need to know

A probation period may be extended if your employer believes you will benefit from it. Rather than terminating the contract they may extend the probation period to allow more time to assess your suitability for the role.

For example, if you fall sick for part of your probation period, there may not be enough time to determine your suitability adequately. Or, if you had a pre-planned holiday, your manager may extend the probation period to account for this duration.

End of the probation period: What happens next?

You should receive confirmation of your role at the end of a successful probation period. You will carry on with your duties and any further training that may be involved. Remember, protections against unfair dismissal don’t start until one year of service.

Do I have to give notice during my probation period in Ireland?

In Ireland, neither party has to give notice if there is less than 13 weeks of service. Beyond this, it’s subject to the notice period set out in your employment contract. However, it’s good practice to offer the statutory minimum of one week still to allow for a smooth transition. 

After 13 weeks of service, giving notice is set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973-2005 as follows:

“entitled to not less than one week’s notice from an employee who has been in his continuous employment for thirteen weeks or more of that employee’s intention to terminate his contract of employment.”

Navigating your probation period successfully – Top tips

Don’t let a new job get the best of you. Follow these top tips for a successful probation period:

  • Actively seek feedback: You don’t have to wait for feedback; you can be proactive and ask for it. Speak with your manager or coworkers to see how you’re doing and how you can improve. This shows commitment and willingness to learn.
  • Clarify expectations: At the start of your probation period, ensure you know exactly what’s expected from you. This includes your job responsibilities and any performance metrics you need to be aware of. Knowing what’s expected of you will help you focus on the tasks at hand.
  • Learn and adapt: Show that you’re committed to growing and learning in the company. Be open to methods of working and accept any constructive criticism gracefully. 

Employers want you to succeed, so demonstrating that you’re coachable, adaptable, and capable of meeting targets will show them you’re the ideal employee.

Common challenges and how to overcome them

Here are some common challenges when starting a new job and how to overcome them:

  • Adjusting to your new work environment: Each new job introduces new challenges, workplace culture, and a range of new co-workers. Spend time observing workplace dynamics, asking questions, and trying to get to know the people around you to help you settle in.
  • Meeting performance standards: Ideally you’ll be told what performance metrics you’ll work towards during onboarding. To manage this, prioritise your work, manage your time effectively, and ask for help when it’s needed. 
  • Handling feedback: Your manager should hold regular performance meetings with you, which may include feedback about your work. It may not always be good news, so taking all feedback as a valuable learning opportunity is important. Listen carefully, ask for examples, and discuss ways to improve job performance.

As long as you’re putting in the effort to learn the role and company culture, your probation period should go smoothly.

Wrapping up: Navigating probation periods in Ireland with confidence

Probationary periods in Ireland can seem like an uncertain time, so it’s good to remember no one is trying to catch you out. Everyone wants you to succeed, and the probation is a transitional period that helps you get up to speed.

For more information about probation periods and workers’ rights, be sure to head over to the Recruit Ireland advice centre. You can find advice about your rights as an employee and help with any job searches you may have in the future.



Related articles


Leading healthcare company continues to hire and grow

“MSD was already creative when pitching ourselves as a great company to work for, and now this crisis has challenged us to be even more innovative”- Maria Cullen, Talent Acquisition lead at MSD Ireland


Discover your perfect job

Looking to take the next step in your career?
Kickstart your search with indepth profiles and 

handy career advice and find your 

perfect match today.


10 Minutes With…

Find jobs in your area

Copyright © 2022. Developed & Designed by Square1.