Trial Periods, And Practical Tips For Employers

Starting from Saturday, December 23, 2023, employers in New Zealand can hire new employees for a trial period of up to 90 calendar days. This trial period was previously only applicable to employers with 19 or fewer employees.

Trial periods can be mutually beneficial for both employer and employee when used correctly- to ensure the role and the business is the right fit for each party, but employers must follow key responsibilities to ensure a valid trial period. 

Trial periods are only an option for employees who have never worked for the employer before. An employer cannot use a trial period for current employees or anyone returning to the employer’s business. 

Trial period provisions:

Employers wanting to rely on a trial period must ensure their employment agreements contain a trial period clause that states that: 

  • From the start of their employment, the employee will be on a trial for a set period (not more the 90 days). The exact period must be stated clearly; and 


  • During the trial, the employer can dismiss the employee; and 


  • The employee can’t bring a personal grievance or other legal proceedings against their dismissal. 


Trial periods for union members or collective employment employees: 

Employers with employees that belong to a union or are on a collective employment agreement should take care to ensure the terms of a trial period (in their individual terms and conditions) are not at odds with the collective employment agreement. 

Employees on valid trial periods will otherwise still have all minimum employment rights and responsibilities, and must otherwise be treated the same as any other employee. 

Below we have detailed three key tips to ensure that your business can get the most out of the trial period - 

  1. Ensure you email the employment agreement to your new employee at least one week before their first day of work 

The employment agreement must include a valid notice period. 

For a trial period to be valid, the trial period must be agreed to in the employment agreement before the employee starts work, or the trial period will be invalid. 

Employers should inform the employee they can seek independent advice on the agreement and give the employee sufficient time to get advice. 


  1. Require the new employee to return the signed employment agreement before their first day of work

In order for a trial period to be valid, it must be agreed to by both parties in good faith. 

It is not sufficient for an employee to sign an employment agreement the morning of, or following, their first day of work – and will mean the trial period is invalid, as the employee has not had enough time to consider the trial period, get advice and raise any issues, and agree to the terms of employment before they started work. 

An employer would not be able to dismiss an employee under a trial provision, and if they did, the employee could bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal. 


  1. Diarise a review 10 days prior to the expiration of the trial period (or sooner depending on the trial period length) 

Employers, acting reasonably, should give new employees regular feedback during the trial period. 

If an employer fails to provide the employee with notice of their dismissal by the end of the trial period, then the employee is no longer on a trial and their employment will continue.

Diarising a review 10 days before the end of a notice period will allow the employer to consider their options, while still acting fairly towards the employee. 

Notice of dismissal: 

If an employer decides to give notice of dismissal, the notice:

  • Must follow the notice period required in the employment agreement. If the employer does not give the employee the correct notice period, the trial period is invalid, and the employee will continue to be an employee (or they could bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal). 


  • Must be given to the employee during the trial period, even if the actual dismissal takes effect after the trial period ends.


  • Does not have to have reasons for the employee’s dismissal. However, it is good practice to tell the employee why they are being dismissed. 


For advice on employment matters, please contact one of the iCLAW team.