Addressing the worst possible start in a new job
Published 17 August 2022
Ambitious Isobel felt her dreams of a career in accountancy were lost forever when she was fired at the end of her probation period in her first job.
Up until that point Isobel had been given no reason to believe she had been underperforming, so the decision was completely unexpected and a huge shock.
It all happened very quickly. She was invited to a meeting with her manager, informed for the first time of problems with her performance and asked to leave immediately.
Distraught Isobel was told she could serve her one-week notice period at home and did not need to return to the office.
It came shortly after Isobel queried if she could be paid for the extra hours she was putting in because the company was short of staff.
Upset and angry at the way she had been treated Isobel contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Isobel, who is mixed-race, explained to our representative that she started at the same time as two white female trainees and their treatment was markedly different to hers.
Asked to explain how and why, Isobel said their probation was passed and they had reviews during the six-month probationary period, which she did not have.
As Isobel had less than two years’ service she could not make a claim for unfair dismissal.
But all employees receive automatic protection from discrimination from their first day of employment.
The Equality Act 2010 provides protection from discrimination if you have been treated unfairly because of one or more of the nine protected characteristics, which includes your race.
As there was a case to argue that Isobel had been treated less well in comparison to colleagues of a different race, this was included in her appeal against the decision to terminate her contract.
In the appeal letter written by our representative on Isobel’s behalf, the grounds for appeal were race discrimination and unfavourable treatment.
Ahead of the appeal hearing our representative requested all of the information from the employer that it had gathered, considered and used in the decision to dismiss Isobel. A copy of the employer’s probation policy was also requested.
Not all employers have a specific probation policy, but the company in this case did have one.
The policy detailed how its objectives were to give assistance and support to new starters, help them adapt to their role and made it clear performance will be monitored during the probationary period.
In response to our representative’s request for information the employer was unable to provide any credible information to show Isobel’s performance had been monitored or assessed.
This was significant because Isobel was in a WhatsApp group with the two other new starters who had shared details of how their probation was handled. Screenshots of the messages were to be presented in support of Isobel’s appeal.
Prior to the appeal hearing our representative was able to establish that Isobel’s desired appeal outcome was to be able to leave with the dismissal removed from her record.
Isobel felt it was unfair and would significantly harm her chances of securing alternative employment.
It was decided that a settlement agreement would be the perfect resolution.
Prior to the start of the appeal hearing the company HR manager and our representative had a discussion about the case.
The HR manager explained how she was shocked by the content of the appeal letter and was keen to resolve the matter.
It led to a lengthy ‘off the record conversation’ in which Isobel’s desired outcome was explained.
The employer insisted Isobel had not been treated unfairly because of her race, but recognised the situation could and should have been handled much better.
A settlement was later agreed. Isobel was able to leave without the dismissal being on her record. She quickly secured another job.