Probationary periods have been all the rage in recent decades. It’s not uncommon for new hires to be denied certain benefits until they’ve been with the company for a predetermined amount of time. This is because it often isn’t until after a probationary period that a job offer is made official.
As Chron explains, “probationary periods, also referred to as trial periods, allow employers to evaluate a new hire’s overall job performance before offering [them] a permanent position.”
Probationary periods are usually around 30 days and rarely last longer than 90 days. It’s during this time that employers are usually free to terminate an employee without the same ramifications that can come with traditional terminations.
Why are companies moving away from probationary periods?
While probationary periods might be in the best interest of an employer, what about the interest of your potential employee?
Especially in a job market that’s favoring job seekers, a probationary period could be a major turnoff for candidates. It’s easy to see how an applicant could feel like the company doesn’t trust them or believe in them.
Plus, from time to time, probationary periods get extended. Then what? It puts new hires in risky and uncomfortable positions.
For these reasons and more, many companies are moving away from probationary periods. As far back as 2013, Suzanne Lucas wrote in Inc. that probationary periods should be done away with.
Today, though, some companies are taking it even further. Rather than withholding employment status or benefits, some companies are actually giving their new hires time off before they even start!
Haven’t heard of this new business trend before? Interested but have no idea how to roll out or manage a program like this? Here’s what you need to know about the newest perk of giving employees time off before they start.
Why are companies giving new hires time off before they start?
It’s vital for organizations to promote work-life balance. In January, the hospitality company SevenRooms decided to give every new hire 2 weeks of paid time off before their first day. They also give them health insurance coverage before they start, too, CNBC reports.
The company’s Chief People Officer, Paul McCarthy, told the publication that burnout was a major driving factor. When the company went on a hiring spree in late 2021, McCarthy was “hearing [that] a lot of people were having a hard time balancing the time they had in their lives. They were burned out between what they were wanting to do and having to choose work,” he told CNBC.
So SevenRooms adopted their new “Fresh Start” policy of offering new hires time off before they start. McCarthy said that the program goes a long way to show their people that the company is committed to valuing the most important thing of all — time.
SevenRooms isn’t alone, either. MikeWorldWide, a public relations agency, has done the same. The company gives new hires 1 week of paid time off before their first day.
“Many of the candidates we were talking to had multiple offers,” Gina Cherwin told CNN. Cherwin is MikeWorldWide’s Vice President and Chief People Officer. “So, we have to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate our employee value proposition to prospective talent.”
The pros and cons of offering new hires time off before they start
Should you give new employees time off before they start? Not only does it show that you’re investing in your new hire from the start, but you’re helping them hit the ground running, too. Let’s look at potential pros and cons of a policy like this.
One of the main reasons that pre-start time off is becoming something that companies do is burnout. Pretty much everyone has been there before. You’re in a job you hate and the only way to get out is to start applying for new jobs. But when? You still have your current job and all of its responsibilities to take care of.
Plenty of applicants are already starting from a place of burnout.
There are sometimes moments here and there to job hunt during the workday. But when it comes to sitting down to write a killer cover letter or thoroughly update your resume, the more intensive elements tend to happen during personal time. This means that plenty of applicants are already starting from a place of burnout.
If they get a chance to take some paid time off before their next job starts, they’ve got a chance to decompress first. This means that they can arrive to their 1st day rested, refreshed, and ready to dive into their new role.
Of course, there are potential downsides, too. People can change their minds. At-will employment means that people can leave when they please.
It also means that companies can let people go as they please (as long as the reasons are legal). There’s a chance that you can pay someone to be off for 2 weeks and then they quit a month into the job.
But just because there’s a chance doesn’t mean that it’s likely. If your company cares enough about its people to give them time off and benefits before they start, new hires are going to be hard-pressed to find something better elsewhere.
What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve
Answer to see the results
Simplify benefits administration
Improve our virtual onboarding experience
Automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks
How to roll out pre-start PTO at your organization
Because this idea is so new, there aren’t tried-and-true practices to rely on. Especially when it comes to offering cutting-edge benefits like these, the key is to figure out what’s possible for your unique business.
Are you able to offer 2 full weeks off? Or does just 1 week of pre-start PTO make the most sense for you?
Next, what do you need to do to protect your company in the process? You can take a no-strings-attached approach. Or, like signing bonuses, you can outline pay-back requirements if the employee doesn’t end up staying with the company for a predetermined amount of time.
There are pros and cons to every approach. Like probationary periods, if you require that the time off be paid back if an employee quits, it can lead to the same feelings of distrust.
However, without large margins, you could end up with losses you can’t cover and you might just need to have a repayment clause.
The key is figuring out what works for your company. Especially if you’re going to begin offering benefits right away as well, you’ll likely have to do some kind of employee onboarding before their pre-start PTO begins.
Consider a half-day onboarding day where paperwork gets taken care of before the PTO starts. Then your new hire will really be ready to hit the ground running when their 1st day of work rolls around.
Ensure you’re communicating policies clearly
Whatever you determine your policy to be, communicate it clearly. One of the best ways to do this is to include it in your employee handbook. This way everyone has a reference that they can rely on at any point during their employment.
And, during the onboarding day, you can give your new hires the handbook, too. This way everyone is on the same page and the chances of miscommunication are greatly reduced.
Especially if you feel like you’re taking a bit of a risk with a program like this, start it out as a pilot program. Collect data on it through conversations and surveys.
This way you can understand if it’s achieving the goals you’ve set for it. If it is, you can make it permanent. If not, you can adjust and try again. It’s all about flexibility, transparency, and communication.