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Trial Periods

Trial Periods

Trial periods are used by employers to try new employees out to see if you will make a good employee. If the employer decides not to give you a permanent position in the company beyond the trial period, they can fire you at any point, during a valid trial period, without any misconduct on your part. All employers in New Zealand, no matter their size, are now able to use 90-day trial periods. Previously, they only applied to employers with fewer than 20 employees. The trial periods are now available to all employers.

This section give you information about trial periods, you should always make sure you agree with the trial period before signing your agreement.

I’ve been told I’m on a trial period at work, what is that?

In NZ, a trial period is different to a probation period. There are specific laws on the trial period.

When your boss employs you, to be on a valid legal trial period, you must have agreed for there to be a trial period of 90 days or less for a trial period in writing for you to have a valid trial period employment. During a trial period, your boss can dismiss you without any misconduct on your part but you won’t be able to take a personal grievance case against your employer for an unjustified dismissal.


Do I have to be on a trial period?

A trial period is not a compulsory part of an employment agreement, so it isn’t in every single employment agreement. No one can force you to agree to a trial period, but a potential employer can refuse to give you a job if you do not agree to a trial period.

Only new employees can be put on trial periods. This means that if you’ve already started working for an employer without being on a trial period, or you’ve worked for them in the past (e.g. a year ago), they can’t ask you to be on a trial period.

How long is a trial period for?

If you’re a new employee, an employer can hire you on a legal trial period for up to 90 calendar days if you have agreed to this in your employment agreement. A legal trial period can also be for less than 90 calendar days.

What are my rights if I’m on a trial period?

If your employer decides to dismiss you, they must give you notice before the end of the trial period. Your last day can be after the trial period ends as long as the notice was given before the end of the trial period. If the trial arrangement isn’t valid or if you’re told of the dismissal only after the end of the trial period, then you may be entitled to bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal, the same as any other employee.

If there are any problems during the trial, you can use the free mediation and other services provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. Also, although you can’t bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal, you can bring a personal grievance on any other grounds that might apply in your case – for example, discrimination or sexual harassment. If you have any questions, feel free to call YouthLaw or your local community law centre.

How do I know I’m on a trial period?

You can only be on a trial period if it’s written down in your employment contract and you agreed and signed to it before you started work. You should have a copy of your written contract. If you don’t, or you can’t find it, you can ask your employer to provide you with a copy. If the contract (or any other written signed document) doesn’t say anything about a trial period, then you aren’t on a trial period, even if your boss has verbally told you that you are.

If you’re not sure, call YouthLaw or your local community law centre.

If I’m fired during my trial period, does my boss have to give me reasons for it?

On a valid trial period, your boss doesn’t have to give you a written notice with the reasons for your dismissal. However, under good faith, they should let you know why you have been dismissed. Sometimes, when you’re fired under a trial period, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

What is a probationary period?

Probationary periods and trial periods are different.

If your boss wants to dismiss you during a probationary period, they must follow a fair process. Your boss has to tell you about any problems they have with your work, give you time to seek advice, and also an opportunity to improve, with some guidelines on how to improve. Only if you don’t reasonably improve, then your boss can fire you at the end or before the end of your probationary period, as long as they have followed a fair process. If you’re not told of any problems, then you can expect your employment to continue. A probationary period can be longer than 90 days.

You can raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal if you’re unfairly dismissed on a probationary period. If you need advice on this, please contact YouthLaw or your local community centre.

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