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Probation period: A guide for employers in Singapore

In Singapore, the start of employment often includes a probation period, which serves as a mutual evaluation and adjustment phase for both the employer and the employee. In this guide, we'll address key questions and concerns surrounding the probation period, including its necessity, employee rights, and employer obligations. From understanding the purpose of the probation period to preparing employees for success, we'll delve into essential considerations for employers. Join us as we explore the intricacies of probationary employment and provide insights to ensure a smooth transition for all parties involved. Let's dive in!

What is the probation period?

A probation period is a trial period at the beginning of employment during which the employer and the employee can assess each other and determine if the working relationship is a good fit.

Employers use it to evaluate a new employee’s qualifications and cultural fit, while employees are able to see if the job meets their expectations.

Is the probation period mandatory in Singapore?

No, a probation period is not mandatory in Singapore. However, it is very common for Singapore employers to include a probation period in their employment contracts.

Tip: Delve into the specifics of key employment terms and why they matter for maintaining a harmonious employer-employee relationship. 

How long is the probation period in Singapore?

In Singapore, its duration can vary depending on company policies, industry norms, and individual employment contracts. However, it's common for probation periods to range from 3 to 6 months.

Please be aware that if the duration is significantly longer compared to other companies, most employees would prefer not to work for such an organisation.

Can an employee take annual leave during probation?

Under the Employment Act, employees are entitled to apply for and take pro-rated annual leave after they have worked for their employer for at least 3 months. 

Therefore, if the probation period is less than 3 months, taking annual leave is at the employer's discretion.

Tip: Discover more FAQs in “Annual leave in Singapore - What every employer must know” such as: 

  • How to calculate pro-rated annual leave?
  • Are contract employees entitled to paid annual leave?
  • Do part-time employees get leave days too?

Can an employee take sick leave during probation?

Sick leave entitlement is not tied to the probation period. Employees are entitled to paid sick leave as long as they are covered by the Employment Act and have worked for their employer for at least 3 months.

However, employers are encouraged to be flexible and grant paid sick leave to employees who have worked for less than 3 months.

Tip: Explore “Sick & hospitalisation leave in Singapore - What every employer must know” to keep you updated on the latest sick and hospitalisation leave regulations in Singapore.

Can an employee take childcare leave during probation?

Yes, the employee can take childcare leave as long as they meet the eligibility criteria:

  • The child is a Singaporean citizen.
  • The child is below the age of 7 years old.
  • The employee has worked for at least 3 months continuously.

Tip: Check out more FAQs on childcare leave to help you create a legally compliant and family-oriented workplace!

Can an employee take maternity leave during probation?

Employees who are working mothers may be eligible for 16 or 12 weeks of maternity leave, depending on whether they meet certain criteria.

To be eligible for the full 16 weeks of maternity leave, employees must meet the following conditions:

  1. She must have worked for at least 3 continuous months before her child's birth.
  2. Her child must be a Singapore citizen.
  3. Her child must be born or have an estimated delivery date (EDD) on or after 1 January 2017.

If the employee hasn't worked at the company for at least 3 months, she will only be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

Tip: Dive into our maternity leave guide to get ideas on how to best support your employees during their pivotal life events. 

Can an employee take paternity leave during probation?

Yes, working fathers in Singapore are entitled to Government-Paid Paternity Leave (GPPL) for all births under specific conditions:

  • His child must hold Singapore citizenship.
  • He is lawfully married to the child’s mother between conception and birth.
  • He must have served the company for at least 3 months before the birth of his child.

Tip: Check out our detailed guide, “Paternity leave: A guide for employers in Singapore” to get prepared to assist your employees during this important phase of their lives!

Can an employee take shared parental leave during probation?

Yes, the probation status will not affect employees' entitlement to shared parental leave as long as they meet all the eligibility criteria:

  • Their child must be a Singapore citizen.
  • The child's mother should qualify for Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML).
  • They must be lawfully married to the child's mother.

Tip: Discover more about shared parental leave in Singapore with our detailed guide, including FAQs such as:

  • How can an employee apply for shared parental leave?
  • When can an employee apply for shared parental leave?
  • How can an employer claim government-paid shared parental leave?
  • How can an employer better support employees who are working parents?

Can an employee take unpaid infant care leave during probation?

Employees are entitled to unpaid infant care leave as long as they fulfil the following criteria:

  • His or her child should be under 2 years old.
  • His or her child is a Singapore citizen.
  • He or she must have completed at least 3 months of employment with the organisation.

This entitlement also applies to employees who are adoptive parents or step-parents, as long as they fulfil the above criteria.

Tip: Learn how to navigate unpaid infant care leave in Singapore in our detailed guide.

How to prepare employees for success during probation?

Preparing employees during their probation period is critical to their performance and overall job satisfaction. Here are some key strategies employers can use to ensure their employees are prepared for success: 

1. Start off with an orientation session

The HR manager will first need to go over a few important things with new hires, such as company policy, benefits, and payroll information. Make sure to give new hires all the relevant HR documents in advance so that they can review them and come prepared with any questions.

It’s also important to set clear expectations for new employees from the start. This means being clear about what their roles and responsibilities are, as well as what is expected of them in terms of behaviour and work ethic. By setting these expectations early on, employers will avoid any confusion or misunderstandings further down the line.

2. Introduce them to their team

Following the orientation, it is time to acquaint new hires with their team. If possible, have each team member get in touch via email or another platform like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. before their first day of work. By doing so, everyone is familiar with each other's names and faces before they even meet in person. 

On the first day, take some time to show new hires around the office and get to know everyone they will be working with. Also, it will be more hospitable to plan a team lunch for the first week so that new hires can meet their coworkers in a more intimate environment!

3. Give them a tour of the office/work area

Knowing where everything is located is critical for getting things done efficiently. Give new employees a tour of the office or work area so they know where the restrooms, break room, printer/copier, supply closet, and so on are located. If the office has multiple floors or buildings, make sure they understand how to access them as well. 

4. Set up their workstation and software access in advance

Before the new hire's first day, prepare their workstation with any necessary equipment, such as a laptop, monitor, desk phone, and so on. If they will be using tools or software specific to their job function, ensure that they are also installed and ready to use. This allows them to get started right away on their first day without having to wait for anything to be set up for them. 

5. Provide training materials/resources

Depending on the position, new employees may require training on how to complete specific tasks or use specific tools/software. 

Gather any necessary training materials or resources (user manuals, tutorial videos, etc.) ahead of time so that they can get up to speed as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to make a list of people they can contact for assistance if they have any questions.

To manage all of the above knowledge sharing, employers can use collaboration software such as Notion or Confluence. Read more about these collaboration tools in our guide, “Top 10 collaboration tools for remote teams”! 

6. Get them involved from the start

One of the most effective ways to engage new employees is to involve them in their work from the beginning. This could include assigning them small tasks or projects to complete during their first week or simply involving them in team meetings and discussions. By doing that, employees will feel like they are an important part of the team from the start.

Tip: In our guide, “Onboarding New Employees: A Checklist for Success,” you can learn how to make a good first impression on new employees during their onboarding process.

Is it necessary for an employer to issue itemised payslips to probationary employees?

Yes, employers must issue itemised payslips to all employees covered by the Employment Act, regardless of whether they are on probation.

Tip: Read “The itemised payslip guide for employers in Singapore,” to learn more about what are the essential items to include in the itemised payslip guide to stay compliant.

Can an employer extend an employee’s probation period?

Yes, an employer can generally extend an employee's probation period, subject to the terms and conditions outlined in the employment contract and compliance with employment laws. 

Here are some valid reasons why an employer might extend an employee's probation period in Singapore:

1. Performance Concerns: If an employee consistently misses performance targets or fails to meet expectations, extending probation allows an employer additional time to assess the employee's performance and provide opportunities for improvement.

2. Skill Deficiencies: An employee may have some skill gaps that require additional training or time to develop before he or she can perform effectively.

3. Work Quality Issues: There might be concerns about the quality of an employee's work, such as accuracy or efficiency.

4. Workplace Adaptation: If an employee struggles to adapt to the company culture, work environment, or team dynamics, extending the probation period allows the employee to demonstrate compatibility.

5. Project Completion: If an employee is involved in a specific project or task that has been extended beyond the initial probation period, extending it may be necessary to evaluate the employee's performance on the completed project

6. Absences or Leave: If the employee has been absent from work due to illness, injury, or other reasons, an extended probation enables the employer to evaluate the employee's performance and capabilities over a longer period of time.

7. Change in Job Scope: By extending the probation period, the employer can assess the employee's suitability for the revised role if his/her job responsibilities or duties have changed.

8. Company Restructuring: If the company is restructuring or changing the employee's role, an extension could be necessary to assess the revised requirements.

It's important for employers to communicate the reasons for extending the probation period to their employees in a clear and transparent manner, and any extensions must be fair, consistent, and compliant with applicable employment laws and regulations.

What are the next steps after an employee passes probation?

After an employee successfully passes probation, the next steps typically involve confirming their employment status and integrating them fully into the organisation. Here are some common steps:

1. Confirmation of Employment: Typically, the employer will issue a formal confirmation letter or update the employment contract to reflect the employee's transition to a permanent role. This might include changes in benefits or probationary clauses no longer being applicable.

2. Performance Review: Following the probation period, conduct a comprehensive performance review with the employee. Provide feedback on their performance during the probation period, acknowledge areas of strength, and identify any areas for further development.

3. Discussion of Career Development: Schedule a meeting to discuss the employee’s career aspirations and development goals. Explore opportunities for growth within the organisation, such as training programmes, mentorship, or potential career advancement paths.

4. Adjustment of Benefits and Entitlements: Review and adjust the employee's benefits and entitlements to reflect their permanent status. This may include adjustments to salary, vacation leave accrual rates, health benefits, and other perks or allowances.

5. Integration into Teams and Projects: Integrate the employee fully into their team and assigned projects. Ensure they have the necessary resources, tools, and support to excel in their role and contribute effectively to team objectives.

6. Celebration and Recognition: Take the opportunity to celebrate the employee's successful completion of probation and their contributions to the organisation. Recognition can boost morale and reinforce a positive work culture.

7. Ongoing Performance Management: Continue to monitor the employee's performance and provide regular feedback and support as needed. Encourage ongoing professional development and maintain open communication to address any challenges or concerns that may arise.

By following these steps, employers can ensure a smooth transition for employees who have successfully completed their probation period, setting the stage for continued success and growth within the organisation.

Can an employer terminate employment at the end of the probation period?

Yes, either the employer or employee can terminate employment at the end of the probation period. 

This can be done by:

  • Serving the required notice period stated in contract or mutual agreement with the company, or
  • Compensate the other party with salary in lieu.

Tip: Refer to our “Salary in lieu of notice guide in Singapore” to ensure a smooth and fair termination process within your organisation. 

How much notice should an employer give during probation?

Notice periods vary from one employment contract to another; however, some contracts may not specify one. In this situation, the parties may abide by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) default notice period:

Employment TermNotice Period
Employed for < 26 weeks1 day
Employed for ≥ 26 weeks to < 2 years1 week
Employed for ≥ 2 years to < 5 years2 weeks
Employed for 5 years or more4 weeks

However, employers can choose to implement longer notice periods in employment contracts but cannot provide shorter notice periods than the abovementioned mandated periods set by MOM. 

Tip: To manage employees leaving your company in a fair and efficient manner, please refer to our detailed guide, “Notice period: A guide for employers in Singapore” as well as Payboy's comprehensive offboarding module to help you keep the offboarding journey organised!

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