We should preface this by saying, congratulations on getting a job! Joining a new team and getting thrown into a whole new environment can be a little intimidating, but this might just be the start to a whole new world of experiences and ideas ready to be explored.
Depending on how your hiring process went, you probably went through everything from multi-level interviews to tests, to even physical exams. Despite that, it is natural to still be a little apprehensive about joining a new job.
No matter how well both you and the employer hit off in that interview, it’s difficult to navigate things like the nuances of office culture and even the general chemistry of what the actual job will be like.
And for these reasons and more, this is where the probation period comes in. A probation period can be considered the trial period. If unhappy with their purchase, the company can return you to factory within 2–6 months depending on your contract.
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And for something that is such common practice with companies, surprisingly, not a lot of people know exactly what a probation period means for them. Back when I was on probation with Vulcan Post, I wondered about a specific aspect that comes with being on probation, and surprise, surprise. No one else knew the answer to my questions either.
It was a pretty basic question too, which made me realise that while it’s common practice to be on probation, very few of us actually knows the details of what that entails, and most importantly, our rights while under probation.
Being On Probation
When you go on probation, what that usually entails is:
- A shorter notice period for resignation (both for you and your employer. Some companies even allow you to quit immediately)
- No paid leaves. You can still take some time off, but they will be deducted from your monthly salary.
- Depending on contract, it may entail less or no medical fee coverage.
- Depending on your performance, you may not be hired on as a full-time employee, or be put under extended probation.
Important things to remember about probation periods are:
- Probations go both ways. As much as it is an opportunity for the company to test your fit with them, it’s also your opportunity to determine if it is the kind of company that you’d like to stay with long-term. So consider your options, and really think about whether this is the company that you see yourself in for a substantial period of time.
- A probation period can also be considered training time. This is when your employer would be teaching you how to do your job, and this is your prime opportunity to ask those 5 million questions.
- Even though you’re still on probation, you’re still hired! So even if you fail your probation period and aren’t confirmed, you can still list the company in your resume, though you might want to be graceful in your answers in any upcoming interview.
- Read your contract very carefully. This is a super important step you need to take before signing anything. Things like your notice period, termination notice and leave will be stipulated here.
And just because you’re on a trial period, it doesn’t mean that you have no rights at all during probation. Here is a list of your rights.
- Right to be paid minimum wage. This isn’t like an internship, you are entitled to a full-time wage during your probation.
- Right to holiday pay. You may not be able to take leaves, but public holidays are a pass for you to be at home while still getting paid.
- Right to itemised pay statement. You are entitled to a payslip during your probation period.
- You’re subject to working time laws. Not as enforced in our Asian Malaysia, but you are entitled to only work within stipulated office hours. Section 60A (1)(iii) and (3) of the IRA states that you can work overtime, as long as you’re not required to work more than 48 hours a week (without valid reason). Basically, if your boss is making you work for 20 out of the daily 24 hours without informing you beforehand in the interview process, you can and should protest.
The Confusing Nitty Gritties
And with most things, there are a lot of situations that will come up while you’re under probation. The worst part about all this is that sometimes, you’re afraid to ask. Is it considered stepping on anyone’s toes if you ask or do this specific thing? Or would they have penalised you for not asking sooner?
So we’ve gathered some common situations here that you might encounter during your probation.
1. It’s been a week since the “last day of my probation period” and no one has said anything.
- If no one has said whether you’re confirmed or not and it’s been past your probation period, then it’s generally accepted that you are confirmed.
- It’s still not a bad idea to go up to your boss to ask directly, especially to get your confirmation letter and if need be, negotiate a possible increment in your salary. Sometimes there are some bureaucratic bumps that are slowing down your confirmation letter, or it may have just slipped your boss’ mind.
2. Can I ask if I’ll be confirmed near the end of my probation period?
- Anxiety over how secure your position is in a company is completely normal. Even the most well-performing staff will wonder if they’re doing enough, and near the end of the probation period, you think the company will have a pretty good idea of whether they’ll continue you. At the same time, you’re not sure whether it’s considered rude to ask.
- A sneaky way to ask is to say; “Is there anything else I can do help me in getting confirmed?” or something along those lines.
- You’ll be able to get the gist of how you’re doing by your boss’ answer. If they have a lot to say, then they’re probably leaning on no, and you’ll have some warning to either get your act in gear, or cut your losses.
- If they don’t have too much to say about you, then congratulations! Unless your company’s communication culture is really bad, you’re likely to get confirmed.
3. My probation’s been extended!
- This may not necessarily be a bad thing. It might be that your employer hasn’t had the opportunity to fully scan how suited you are to the company and needs more time to figure it out (either you show potential that hasn’t been applied, or you were on a lot necessary leaves during your probation period).
- First thing to do is to check your employment letter to see if your employer is even allowed to extend your probation in the first place. If there is a possibility, it would have been stipulated in your contract.
- The point is, your employer is giving you a chance. So apply yourself more this time around, and go up to your boss to ask how you can do better in this new grace period.
4. Can I ask to transfer to a different position than I was on probation for?
- Sometimes you’re using your current position as a gateway into the department that you really want, and while this is acceptable, the method to get there can be tricky.
- According to this post on AskManager, there’s an art to it. When you’re phrasing the question, make sure it sounds like you can help that other department, rather than that you really want it.
- Be prepared to get shut down though, because they might not think you’re a good fit for that position, or that your current manager really needs the manpower.
5. I was dismissed during my probation period and I don’t think it was fair.
- Even for employees on probation, employers should have a justified reason or excuse for dismissing you. Dismissals should not be on the grounds of your race, religion, or that you didn’t perform even though they did not train you to do your job properly.
- If you think your dismissal isn’t fair, you can invoke Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (IRA) to make a case against your former employer.
6. I’m planning on quitting soon.
- If you’re quitting within your probation period, you still need to give your employers notice as per your employment letter. Even if it says that you need to give a two-month notice, that’s what you signed on for even if you’re on probation. Be very careful about your contract before you apply.
How To Pass
Now that we’ve gone through the legalities and the quirks, the fact is that 1 in 5 of people on probation fail to make the cut. Here’s what you can do to make sure that you stay in.
1. Make yourself visible
Being punctual and present is crucial to show your employers that you mean business. This means you need to attend all meetings, and take part in team activities, be it for business or pleasure. Participate on team trips, and contribute to team brainstorms.
Make sure that you dress for the environment you’re in, especially if the office has a dress code. For example, if you’re on probation in a fashion company, do make sure that you stay up to trend with the latest styles. Try to minimise taking leaves to show your boss you’re serious.
2. Be a team player
This is probably a very overused phrase, but what this means is just that you need to be involved in what the office is doing.
When your work is looking for volunteers for a project or responsibility, don’t be shy to raise your hand and show that you’re eager to take part. Be enthusiastic about work, and show that enthusiasm in what you hand in to your managers.
3. Be prepared
Just like the interview, you need to take time to be prepared for your job. Make sure you take the time to familiarise yourself with how the team works, the specific lingo that they use, and the basics of the industry that you’re in.
Sometimes you need to take note of small things like when you can take your lunch break, and if you can work away from your desk in the office. And you shouldn’t approach this in a ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’ kind of way. Better to ask your boss or immediate superior and get their lowdown on what to do.
Overall, being on probation is an opportunity for you to spread your wings, and learn as much as you can.
Even if you don’t succeed, you should still come out of the probation period smarter and more prepared for your next job, even if your wisdom is just figuring out that the job wasn’t for you.