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Ever wish you could rent employees for a few months, take them for a test drive and then return them—no questions asked—if things don’t work out as hoped? That’s the strategy behind probationary periods for new hires.

“Employers may find the use of probationary periods useful in overall staffing decisions,” says Marta Moakley, legal editor for XPertHR USA in New Providence, New Jersey. Her company is an online service that helps employers comply with federal, state and municipal law.

“A probationary period allows an employer and an employee to enter into an employment arrangement in an effort to learn whether the relationship would be a good fit for all involved,” she says. “For the employer, the arrangement allows for a structured performance management system that has a built-in timeline for employment decisions.”

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