EU Directive to limit probationary periods to six months

Last updated: September 19th, 2022

The EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions aims to ensure that employers provide clear and predictable working conditions to staff.

While Ireland hasn’t yet introduced draft legislation transposing the Directive into Irish law, employers should be mindful that new rules are expected in the coming months.

To learn more about how this Directive is likely to impact your business, read on…


EU Member States had until August 1st, 2022 to introduce legislation implementing the Directive. While Ireland has missed this deadline, many of the requirements of the Directive are already provided for under existing employment laws.

Probationary periods

The most notable change under the Directive is a six-month limit on probationary periods.

The Directive does allow for a longer probationary period, but only in exceptional circumstances that can be justified by the type of employment or the interests of the employee. The Directive also allows for extensions to a probationary period if the employee has been absent during their probation. Any such extension should correspond to the length of the absence.

Exclusivity of service

Another interesting change that will impact employers involves exclusivity of service. The Directive prohibits employers from either preventing employees from working for another employer or penalising employees for working for another employer.

We will have to wait to see the Irish legislation to see what exceptions will be permitted. Employers with full-time staff will have various grounds for insisting on exclusive service, such as ensuring health and safety, protecting confidential information, and avoiding conflicts of interest.

What do employers need to do now?

The first step for employers is to begin a review of your template contracts of employment and employee handbooks. Although we recommend delaying any changes until the Irish law implementing the Directive has passed.

Does your business provide for a six-month probation period that can be extended to eleven months at the employer’s discretion? If so, you will need to update your contracts of employment when the Irish law is passed as this practice will no longer be permitted.

Likewise, many Irish employers currently include an exclusive service clause. Therefore, depending on how the Irish legislation deals with this issue, you may need to revise your exclusive service clauses to ensure they comply with the Directive.

Need help with the upcoming legislation?

If you want to know more about the upcoming changes to probationary periods, speak to one of our experts on (01) 653 3663 or request a callback here.

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