No. A fixed term contract and probation are not the same in South African law.
They serve different purposes and have different legal implications.
A fixed term contract is a contract of employment that terminates on a specified event, task, project, or date. It is regulated by Section 198B of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA), which aims to protect lower earning employees who are employed on a fixed term basis for longer than three months. If an employer uses a fixed term contract for longer than three months without a justifiable reason, the employee will be deemed a permanent employee and the termination of the contract may amount to an unfair dismissal.
Probation is a period of time during which an employer can evaluate an employee’s performance before confirming the appointment. It is regulated by Clause 8 of the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal (Schedule 8 of the LRA), which aims to ensure fair and consistent procedures for dealing with probationers. Probation should not be used to deprive employees of permanent employment status or to circumvent the dismissal procedures. If an employer dismisses an employee during or after probation without following the proper steps, the dismissal may be unfair.
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