Finding the right workers can be a difficult task in any market, Vietnam being no exception. Fortunately, prior to entering into a binding labor contract in Vietnam, probationary periods provide both the employer and the employee an opportunity to assess their relationship. With minimized compliance, reduced compensation requirements, and fewer restrictions surrounding termination, probation contracts are an invaluable asset allowing foreign investors to safeguard their operations and reduce turnover.
Who should use probationary contracts?
Companies seeking to employ workers in high-skilled positions stand to gain most from use of probation contracts as a first step to prior to standard labor contracting. Not only are the skills for these jobs more subjective and difficult to assess within an interview, wage premiums attached to skilled labor in Vietnam can exacerbate the risks of onboarding of unqualified or unsuited candidates. Generally speaking, the higher the salary of a potential employee, the greater value is added by a probation contract arrangement.
Given the shifting position of Vietnam in the value chain, many sectors are susceptible to turnover. At present, IT, professional business services, and managerial positions in manufacturing are all in high demand and thus experience heightened levels of churn. Employers in all sectors, however, should be sure to assess the Vietnamese labor market and to implement probationary contracting if needed.
How do probationary contracts differ from standard labor contracts?
Under the prevailing labor code of 2012, probation contracts are provided as a separate agreement to a standard labor contract. As such, probationary contracts are subject to a reduced list of information and documentation requirements. The specifics of these requirements can be found above in the chart below outlining the differences in contract structuring:
While separated from a legal standpoint, probation contracts can be issued in conjunction with a standard labor contract which will enter into force upon the successful completion of the probation contract. To tie the two agreements legally, clauses within the probationary contract may specify the continuation of a working relationship through a standard labor contract following the successful conclusion of the probation contract. This approach is popular in practice as it allows employers to effectively negotiate with potential candidates prior to the probation stage. Alternatively, it is also possible to incentivize performance over the period of probation by inserting clauses within the probation contract which offer employment but leave salary and benefits negotiations until after the probation period.
What length of probation is permitted?
Probationary periods permitted for a given position are proportional to the education required for the position and range from six days to 60 days. These contracts are limited to a one-time usage and must be converted to a standard contract of one year or more if both parties wish to continue the relationship beyond the period specified in the probation contract. Existing probationary contract lengths specified under Vietnamese employment law include:
60 days: probationary periods of up to 60 sixty days are reserved for positions that require professional or technical skills that demand a collegiate education or higher.
30 days: probation periods of up to 30 days may be applied for jobs that require a professional skill set, technical qualifications, some of which may require some degree of education to obtain.
06 days: For all other employment in Vietnam, including most manual labor and manufacturing, probation is limited to six days.
The distinction between the 30 and 60 day probationary periods is subject to clarification at the circular level and should be monitored closely when drafting contracts. As a matter of compliance, pursuant to Circular No. 05/2015/NĐ-CP, companies will be required to notify those undergoing 30 and 60 day probationary periods of their results three days prior to the conclusion of the probation contract.
How much do employers have to pay employees under probation contracts?
Compensation for probationary employment is subject to the agreement set out by the parties involved and must be stipulated in the agreement negotiated by the employer and employee. While there is considerable latitude with regard to the amount of compensation that is to be provided for probationary employment, employers are obligated to provide compensation no lower than 85 percent of the going wage applied to the position for which the probation is in preparation.
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