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Problem with probation period extension and impending maternity leave

(4 Posts)
Menagerieofplasticanimals Fri 02-Nov-12 08:50:11

Hi. Really hope someone can give me some advice. Am a regular, but namechanged as some RL people know my username.

I am posting on behalf of my sister, who is really worried.

I'm sorry this is going to be really long, but i want to get all detail in.

She has been in her job for 12 months and has just had a 6 month review, where her probation period was due to end, and permanent employment due to start.
Her review was not a good one, and her probation period has been extended.

She works in a theatre box office, so customer-facing and responsibility for answering the phones.
The reasons given to her were as follows:
The theatre is attached to her old University, and current students often perform there. A few months ago, students were coming in to talk to her frequently. Her manager did mention it to her after some time, and she ensured that it stopped. She also used to have her mobile phone on her desk, and used it to text/facebook etc. (not so great, admittedly) However, again, her manager mentioned it to her, and she no longer has the phone with her.

In her review, both of these incidents were mentioned as reasons to extend her probation period, despite them not happening for a good 12 weeks or more.

The third reason was that the manager felt she was sometimes a little abrupt with customers. I can't comment on this as I don't know, and she did admit to me that she's not always "over-friendly." However, there have been absolutely no complaints from customers.

Her manager has given her extra responsibility on the back of the review - she is now in charge of group bookings, extra admin rights on the system and responsible for all shows in the studio of the theatre. She can't understand why she has had a poor review, but is being trusted with extra work - and much more extra responsibility than the other box office staff have been given.

She really doesn't agree with the reasons given to her, as two have completely stopped after she was told about them, and the third is a low-level training issue, and she is keen to ensure that her attitude is no longer misinterpreted.

Her new probation period is now due to finish on February 1st, at which point if they feel she hasn't improved, then they can terminate her role. She is pregnant at the moment, and her due date is 1st March. She is panicking like crazy now that she has no job security just before she goes on maternity leave..

Could anyone advise what she can do? She is currently drafting a letter to HR and her line manager, having spent some time thinking about the review, stating her unhappiness with the results of her review, and her reasons why. She is stating that she feels that the two issues that were previously raised actually demonstrate that she CAN adapt to instruction. She also is contesting the fact that she is abrupt, and is asking if her manager can give her specific examples so that she can ensure it doesn't continue.

Her big concern, of course, is that she won't have a job just before her maternity starts, and doesn't know whether to send this letter and potentially rock the boat, or just get her head down, knuckle under and make sure there is no reason to terminate her employment (which obviously will keep her in uncertainty for the next three months)
Which is the best course of action?

Also , one possible "solution" - if she were to go on maternity leave early (ie before Feb 1st) would her role and maternity package be protected, even though she would still be on probation at the outset of her maternity?

So sorry for the length of this - thanks if you read all the way through. I really want to help her, but am struggling.

Menagerieofplasticanimals Fri 02-Nov-12 10:02:21

Sorry - she's been in post 6 months not 12.

LadyLapsang Sat 03-Nov-12 14:14:33

I don't think her manager is being unreasonable - when you are at work you should be working not chatting to people calling in, texting and going on facebook - especially if you are new and trying to give a positive impression. Her manager must be thinking if she behaves like this on probation then they may have a liability in store further down the line. I think she should get her head down and do the job she is paid to do, with a cheerful manner and a smile if she wants to be kept on; after all there are plenty of unemployed educated people out there just waiting for an opportunity to work - just call into Pret and see the graduates making sandwiches....

flowery Sat 03-Nov-12 17:14:44

I think if she sends a formal letter to her manager and HR along those lines, contesting the extension to her probationary period she is unlikely to endear herself to anyone, and will come across as defensive and stroppy.

I would suggest she asks for a one to one with her manager, explains nicely that she is disappointed to have had her probation extended but is very keen to move forward positively and take on board the feedback she's had. She could explain that she hopes her manager will agree that there has been an improvement already, and would also like some more specific examples of where her manager feels she has been abrupt so that she can understand what she's been doing and ensure it doesn't happen again.

Reiterate how committed she is to the role and how much she enjoys being part of the team. The idea is that her manager should be feeling warm at the thought of keeping her, rather than being irritated with her.

Legally, probation doesn't mean much anyway. If she started after the beginning of April this year, she has no job security for the first two years of her employment anyway, probation or no probation.

In terms of maternity pay, once she has met the criteria for SMP she gets it regardless of whether her employment is terminated for any reason after that date. If by "maternity package" you mean she gets something over and above statutory, then she'll have to check the terms for that.

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