“Testing, testing, 1…2…90” – trial periods for employees

Section 67A of the Employment Relations Act tells you how to set up a 90 day trial period in an employment contract. Simple, right?

Well, yes it is simple. As long as you do it properly. But it’s funny how often employers manage to slip up.

Have a look at these three examples. Suppose all three employees get fired within the trial period. Which employer is up the proverbial without a paddle?

1. On Monday, Alice is told she’s got the job. She starts on Tuesday. She signs her contract on Wednesday. The contract says there’s a 60 day trial period.
2. On Monday, Bob is told he’s got the job and is given a contract with a 60 day trial period. Bob turns up on day one with his contract signed. Bob’s employer signs it at morning tea and gives Bob a copy.
3. On Monday, Charlie is told he’s got the job and is given a contract with a 90 day trial period. The job is due to start on Wednesday the following week. Both Charlie and the employer sign the contract a week before the job is due to start. The employer then calls Charlie up on the Monday and asks if he can start a day early, which he agrees to do.

Correct – all the employers have a problem. They can’t rely on the trial period as a basis for firing the employees.

• Alice started working before the contract was signed, and didn’t have an opportunity to get advice on the contract.
• Bob started working before both parties had signed the contract.
• Charlie started working prior to the stated start date and therefore to the start of the trial period.

So you can now avoid those particular traps for the unwary. There’s some useful information on MBIE’s employment website too.

But if you want to be certain you’re avoiding problems, call us on 04 472 0338 or email us. Ask for John and he’ll talk you through the issue – it’s a simple way of making sure you don’t do something you shouldn’t!