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Six month probationary period may be acceptable

THE Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission recently held that a six month probationary period set by an employer was reasonable.

In this case a senior information technology officer was employed for a period of five months and then notified of a grievance and dismissed.

The employee brought a claim of harsh, unjust or unreasonable termination of employment.

The employer argued that the commission did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter because at the time of dismissal the employee was serving a period of probation, which under the Workplace Relations Act is an exclusionary factor preventing a claim for unfair termination.

The Full Bench took into consideration the complex and highly skilled nature of the position in examining the fairness of the length of the probationary period.

The employer argued that due to the nature of the position and, indeed, the industry, it was reasonable to implement an across-the-board six month probationary period.

Further, that a shorter period would not allow for either an accurate assessment of the employee by the employer, or a fair amount of time for the employee to demonstrate their skills.

In dismissing the appeal it was noted that a period of six months was acceptable in this circumstance.

A case against termination of employment while in a probationary period was, therefore, not within the commission’s jurisdiction.

The Full Bench commented that a probationary period longer than three months may be justified by the particular circumstances of the employment, including the complexity of skills necessary for the work.

Carla Paratore, solicitor

9288 6940

Michael Jensen, associate

9288 6944

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