Probation policy and procedure

Probation Policy

1. Policy Statement

The University recognises that a supportive and developmental probation process is vital in providing the appropriate level of support and training for new members of staff on commencement of their employment.

This policy sets out the University’s approach to probation for new members of staff, aiming to ensure the University meets its commitment to the fair, equal and consistent treatment of staff with regard to the probation period.

A probation procedure is available offering guidance on the implementation of the policy.

The relevant procedure should be read in conjunction with the policy.

2. Scope

2.1 This policy relates to all newly appointed staff, whose terms and conditions of employment state that their appointment is subject to a probationary period. This includes academic staff, support staff, teaching only staff and research only staff.

2.2 The length of the probation period will be stated in the terms and conditions of employment and is dependent on the skills and competencies required for the role. However, the length of probation period will normally be;

  • 6 months for support staff within Grades 1 – 5
  • 9 months for support, teaching only and research only staff within Grades 6 – 8
  • Maximum of 3 years for academic staff (excluding Professorial staff)

2.3 It will not normally be appropriate to apply probation to those members of staff who having satisfactorily completed a period of probation in one post are then transferred to another comparable post within a different department of the University, unless the new role is substantially different and requires a new range of skills and attributes. Similarly, it will not normally be appropriate for academic staff to serve a three-year probationary period, or indeed any staff member to undergo a probationary period, where it is deemed by the University that such a period of probation has been partly or wholly served elsewhere. Where this situation arises advice should be sought from the HR Manager.

2.4 In cases where a member of staff has been redeployed to another role within the University, a trial period will be a more appropriate method of ensuring that the redeployment is satisfactory to both the individual and the department. Where this situation arises advice should be sought from the HR Manager.

2.5 Staff on probation will not be subject to the performance review process until such time as their probation period is successfully completed. Staff may be listed as having received a performance review if they have recently undergone a probation review (i.e. at 3 and 6 months for staff in Grades 1-5, and at 3, 6 and 9 months for staff in Grades 6-8)

2.6 Staff falling within the probation period will not normally be subject to the University’s disciplinary and capability procedures; however, the University reserves the right to invoke the statutory dismissal procedure in cases of alleged serious or gross misconduct or incapability. All other cases of poor performance or misconduct will be dealt with within the probation procedures.

3. Aims

The policy aims:

  • To ensure that the probation process is undertaken for all staff and is applied in a fair and consistent manner, within a supportive framework and in line with employment legislation requirements.
  • To ensure the University is provided with an opportunity to assess the skills, conduct, capability and attendance of new staff before deciding whether or not to confirm their appointment.
  • To identify the link between induction, probation and developmental processes (e.g. Post Graduate Certificate of Academic Practice and mentoring opportunities) and emphasise the need for all to underpin the support and development of a new member of staff.

4. Principles

4.1 The University aims to secure equality of opportunity in all its activities, and in this respect, the probation process must be objective, clear, transparent and free from discrimination. Head of Departments / Line Managers are expected to have undertaken equal opportunities training; if in any doubt, the Head of Department / Line Manager should contact their HR manager for clarification or advice.

4.2 The probation process should work alongside the induction process to help create a positive and supportive working environment, allowing new staff to settle into the organisation and learn the key elements of the job within a reasonable and realistic timescale.

4.3 At their induction, new members of staff will be made aware by their line manager of the performance standards expected of them and will be given support, training and feedback necessary to achieve these standards. Line managers will use the probationary period to monitor the success of the new staff member in reaching those standards.

4.4 Clear, comprehensive and accurate records of probation review meetings must be maintained, including how standards are set, what methods are used for measuring them and what timescales are given for reaching them. A Probation Review Form is provided for this purpose and must be signed by the employee and his/her line manager at each review point to provide a formal record of the probationary period. Induction materials may be used to inform the initial probation review meeting i.e. to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the new employee in line with their terms and conditions of employment, their job description and the policies and procedures which must be followed .

4.5 In circumstances where problems arise during a period of probation, the line manager should raise these with the member of staff in a timely manner, and the member of staff must be given an opportunity to respond to any concerns. Line managers should discuss the action required by the member of staff to address the problem and where necessary give clear, unambiguous warnings if standards are not met. The manager should use the Probation Review Form to keep a record of the discussion and ensure that this is signed by both parties (i.e. the line manager and the employee).

4.6 Members of staff have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trades union representative at any formal meetings held to address serious performance issues that have arisen during probation and where dismissal is a possible outcome. This right will not apply in the case of informal discussions between the employee and line manager or at the normal 3, 6 or 9 monthly review meetings.

4.7 Documentation relating to staff will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and related documentation will be subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as appropriate.

5. Responsibilities

Role Responsible for
New Employee
  • Demonstrating their suitability for the post for which they are appointed
  • Participating as required in their induction
  • Meeting any reasonable objectives within deadlines set
  • Identifying to their line manager at the earliest opportunity any difficulties they are experiencing
  • Raising with their line manager any training, development or support which they believe to be necessary in order for them to fulfil the requirements of the role
Line Manager
  • Establishing the standards of performance consistent with the requirements of the position, in line with the job description
  • Communicating the required standards, responsibilities and objectives to the new staff member
  • Ensuring the new employee is inducted locally
  • Making sure that the employee is aware that records of induction activities may be used to support the probation process
  • Maintaining induction records which will provide complete and documented evidence to support the probation procedure
  • Providing training and guidance as necessary
  • Monitoring the performance of the employee
  • Holding regular one-to-one meetings with the employee in order to ensure a good working relationship and provide feedback on the employee’s progress
  • Arranging and conducting formal probation review meetings at the intervals prescribed in the probation procedure
  • Providing appropriate supervision to monitor progress or identify difficulties and provide opportunity for resolution
  • Timely conduct and documentation of probation reviews
  • Advising HR Services of the outcome of the probation period following an extension of or difficulties during the probation period
  • Confirming verbally whether or not the employee has completed their probationary period successfully at the final review meeting.
Human Resources
  • Providing HR advice on the probation period for both line managers and the new employee
  • Issuing probation review reminders to departmental administrators
  • Advising on cases of unsatisfactory performance/progress and, where appropriate, supporting line managers during formal meetings to address serious cases.
  • Confirming in writing the outcome of the probation period following an extension of or difficulties during the probation period

6. Monitoring and review

Application of the policy will be monitored by the Director of HR. This policy will be reviewed after a period of 4 years.

7. Approval

Approved by HR Policy Committee in October 2008 and by JNCC in February 2009

8. Related documents and forms

Document Control

Title:
Probation Policy
Applicable to:
All Staff
Date Last Reviewed:
February 2009
Procedure Owner:
Human Resources

Probation Procedure (all staff except Academic Staff)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Length of Probation
  3. Procedure
    • Setting Standards
    • Initial Meeting
    • Probation Review Procedure
    • Review Meetings
    • Probation Form
    • Confirmation of Appointment
    • Difficulties during Probation
    • Extending the Probationary Period
    • Non-confirmation of Appointment
  4. Right to Appeal
  5. Related Documents and Forms

1. Introduction

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the University’s policy on probation. They have been produced to assist managers in the implementation of the policy for all new members of staff excluding academic staff, for whom there will be separate probation guidelines.

The University aims to ensure that the probation process is undertaken for all new employees and is applied in a fair and consistent manner.

A formal probation procedure helps to ensure that;

  • the University is provided with an opportunity to assess the performance, conduct and attendance of each new staff member in a fair and consistent manner
  • employees are given the support, encouragement, training and guidance they need
  • both managers and employees understand the purpose of probation and what is expected of them

2. Length of Probation

The length of the probation period will be stated in the terms and conditions of employment and is dependent on the skills and competencies required for the role. However, the length of probation period will normally be;

  • 6 months for support staff within Grades 1 – 5
  • 9 months for support, teaching only and research only staff within Grades 6 – 8

Any proposed extension to these probationary periods, either before or during the probationary period itself should be discussed with the Human Resources (HR) Manager, and should be in line with the guidance provided in section 8 of this procedure on Extending the probationary period.

3. Procedure

3.1 Setting Standards

When a new member of staff is appointed their line manager (manager) will receive a copy of their appointment letter and main statement of terms and conditions of employment.

The manager should ensure that an induction programme is in place prior to the commencement of the new employee. Standards and objectives should be set and be provided to the new employee to ensure that expectations regarding standards of work performance, conduct and attendance are clear to them on commencement of their role and that the appropriate support, training and guidance is in place. For further information, see the the University Induction Policy.

The manager should arrange a meeting with the new employee during their first week of employment to ensure they are aware of the standards required of them and that activities carried out during job induction may be used to document the employee’s performance during the probationary period.

3.2 Initial Meeting

At the initial meeting the manager should;

  1. Clarify the duties and responsibilities of the new employee in line with their terms and conditions of employment and their job description (providing them with a copy). To include;
    • key aspects of the role
    • policies and procedures that must be followed
    • deadlines which need to be adhered to
    • relationships with other employees within the team, department, University
    • working hours – including any flexitime arrangements/processes
    • working environment
    • health and safety
    • security arrangements
    • training and development needs, including mentoring opportunities
  2. Identify and put in place objectives which will be statements of what should be achieved during the probationary period. These should be explained, regarding how they will be monitored and measured, the timescales and what support will be given in order to achieve them.
  3. Identify and put in place ways to address any training and development requirements.
  4. Explain fully the probation procedures to be followed.
  5. Agree dates for further review meetings, including formal review meetings.

Managers should be sensitive to issues of equality and diversity and adapt their approach accordingly e.g. where an employee’s first language is not English, the manager should read the probation requirements to the employee and ensure that he/she has a clear understanding.

3.3 Probation Review Procedure

Throughout the probation period an employee’s performance and competence should be subject to assessment by their manager within a supportive and developmental context. Regular and informal one-to-one meetings should be held to review performance and to ensure that new members of staff are kept informed of their progress against the required standards; to advise them of any concerns and how these can be addressed; and to ensure staff are able to raise any questions they may have about their work performance or training requirements.

In addition to informal one to one meetings, formal, documented probation reviews are to be carried out as follows;

  • 6 month probation period – reviews during month 3 and month 6
  • 9 month probation period – reviews during month 3, month 6 and month 9

A Probation Review Form is provided for this purpose and must be signed by the employee and his/her line manager at the initial meeting and each subsequent review point to provide a formal record of the probationary period. A minimum of two formal reviews will take place during the probation period of every new member of staff.

HR Services will send reminders of formal review dates to Departments and it is the responsibility of the manager to carry these out in a timely fashion.

Departments will not be required to submit copies of Probation Review forms to HR Services where performance is deemed to be satisfactory. Departments will, however, be required to return Probation Review forms to HR Services in cases where difficulties have arisen during the probationary period. Non-reporting by Departments will result in the assumption that an employee’s probation period is progressing satisfactorily.

The purpose of the formal review meetings is to formally assess and document the standards of work performance, conduct and attendance of the employee against the targets set at the initial meeting and to identify any further support, training or guidance which is required.

Formal reviews should be set up in advance so that both parties have time to prepare for the meeting. Employees can be accompanied at these meetings by either a work colleague or a trades union representative if serious performance issues have been identified and dismissal is a possible outcome .

3.4 Review Meetings

As part of the formal review meeting managers should;

  • praise good performance and achievements made so far
  • discuss the employee’s performance against the requirements of the position identified in the job description
  • discuss the employee’s performance against any objectives and targets set at the initial meeting
  • review time keeping and attendance, including sickness absence
  • review training requirements and agree any further development needs
  • identify any areas of performance, conduct, attendance that need improving – identifying the standards required and how this can be achieved
  • provide support and guidance
  • be sensitive to issues of equality and diversity, seeking guidance as appropriate.
  • set date for next review meeting
  • document the details of the review meeting on the probation form

3.5 Probation Form

It is a manager’s responsibility to ensure that a written record is kept of the initial meeting and subsequent review meetings. The Probation Review Form should be completed to record details of each meeting.

The form should be completed by the manager and signed by both parties (i.e. the manager and the employee) to confirm the discussion that has taken place.

A copy of the form should be held by the department, in line with data protection guidance.

HR Services do not require a copy of Probation Review forms where performance is satisfactory during the probation period.

3.6 Confirmation of Appointment

The manager should confirm verbally whether or not the employee has completed their probationary period successfully at the final review meeting.

If at the end of the probation period an employee’s work performance, conduct and attendance have been satisfactory and have met with the requirements of the post for which they are employed, their manager should complete the final section of the Probation Review Form (signed by the employee and his/her manager) to indicate that the employee’s appointment should be confirmed. A copy of the completed form should be held by the department, in line with data protection guidance.

The HR Services team will only issue a letter confirming an employee has successfully completed their probationary period where this follows an extension of the probationary period or where difficulties have arisen during their probationary period which have been satisfactorily resolved. In such cases a copy of the completed Probation Review Form should be sent to HR Services by the Department to trigger the issuing of the confirmation letter.

3.7 Difficulties during Probation

Managers should discuss with their staff, any difficulties which arise during the probation period at the time when they occur, rather than leaving them until the formal review meetings.

Where difficulties arise the manager should meet with the employee, informally in the first instance to:

  • clarify what the difficulties are in detail – specifying where and how their performance, conduct and/or attendance are falling below what is acceptable.
  • where possible provide evidence/examples of the problem/issues to be discussed
  • allow the member of staff an opportunity to raise and respond to any concerns
  • discuss the action required by the member of staff to address the problem - set targets specifying in detail what standards of performance, conduct and/or attendance are required to reach an acceptable level
  • identify any training needs which may need to be met in order for him/her to achieve the targets
  • set dates when the target should be met
  • monitor the employee’s performance/conduct/attendance and review them at the time of the target dates
  • explain what the consequences may be if the standards/targets are not met – that it may be necessary to discuss the matter at a formal meeting and that ultimately it could result in the employee not being confirmed in their post.
  • discuss any actions required by the manager and agree timescales for completing these, where there is an issue of concern to the employee.

The manager should use the Probation Review Form to keep a record of the details referred to in the meeting and ensure that this is signed by both parties (i.e. the line manager and the employee).

If an employee’s performance/conduct/attendance does not improve following the initial meeting, within a reasonable and realistic timescale, it may be necessary to discuss the matter at a more formal meeting.

Where a formal meeting is to be arranged to discuss difficulties during probation advice should be sought from an HR Manager, who may also be present at the meeting.

The employee should be invited in writing to attend the meeting, giving them appropriate notice. The letter should state the reasons why they have fallen short of the required standards and they should be provided with evidence of this, where available, prior to the meeting.

The employee will have a right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trades union representative and should be notified of this in the invite letter.

At the formal meeting the steps set out in the above informal process should be repeated . Following the meeting, the employee should be given an opportunity to improve their performance and be advised that should they not improve and reach the required standards of performance/conduct/attendance by the time of the final review meeting, they may not be confirmed in post, and could therefore have their employment with the University terminated.

The manager should confirm in a letter to the employee the details and actions of the meeting, sending a copy to HR Services for retention on the employee’s personal file. Advice on letters to confirm actions taken under the formal procedure should be sought from an HR Manager.

The above steps should continue to be followed and monitored during further formal meetings and during the formal review meeting process. Where an employee has not reached the required standards of performance/conduct/attendance during their probation, despite efforts to address this, then the procedure described in the section on Non-confirmation of Appointment should be followed and explained to the employee in advance of their final review meeting.

3.8 Extending the Probationary Period

The University reserves the right to extend the probation period in circumstances where due to sickness absence or other authorised absence it has not been possible to assess an employee’s performance.

Where absence is due to disability or to maternity leave advice should be sought from HR Manager.

In exceptional circumstances where it is felt that an employee has not yet demonstrated their suitability, but are likely to do so, given more time, the probation period may be extended.

Extensions should be for no longer than 3 months. Managers should be aware that employees gain greater employment rights following 12 months of employment. It is therefore advisable that all extensions to an employee’s probation period should be discussed with a relevant HR Manager.

Where the probation period is extended, the following must be discussed between the manager and the member of staff;

  • reasons for the extension
  • length of the extension period
  • any assistance/guidance/training to be given during the extension
  • any areas of improvement that are required and how these will be monitored (where these arise the guidance in the section on Difficulties During Probation should be followed)
  • explain the consequences should they not reach the required standards by the time of the final review meeting - that they may not be confirmed in post, and could therefore have their employment with the University terminated.

The manager should confirm in a letter to the employee the details and actions of the meeting, including confirmation of the extension sending a copy to HR Services for retention on the employee’s personal file.

Monitoring will continue through the probation period, and the employee and their manager will meet to formally review progress.

If performance is deemed to be satisfactory then a final copy of the Probation Review form should be completed, signed by both parties, and sent to HR Services who will write to the employee to confirm that they have successfully completed their probation period.

Where an employee has not reached the required standards of performance/conduct/attendance during their probation, despite efforts to address this, then the procedure described in the section on >Non confirmation of Appointment should be followed and explained to the employee in advance of their final review meeting.

3.9 Non-confirmation of Appointment

Non confirmation should only be considered where the employee has been taken through the procedure as described in the section on Difficulties During Probation and have failed to attain the required standards.

Where an employee has failed to achieve the required standards of performance, conduct or attendance required for their position, they should be invited to a formal final review meeting to discuss this and in order to reach a decision about their employment status.

The employee should be invited in writing to attend the meeting, allowing appropriate notice. The letter should state the reasons why they have fallen short of the required standards and should advise them that a possible outcome of the meeting could be the decision not to confirm them in post during their probation period.

The employee will have a right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trades union representative and should be notified of this in the invite letter.

Guidance should be sought from an HR Manager who, where appropriate, can also be in attendance at the decision meeting.

At the decision meeting the manager should;

  • give the reasons for considering non confirmation in post - these should be explained clearly
  • provide evidence/examples of the problem/issues to be discussed – where appropriate in advance of the meeting
  • allow the employee and/or their representative to respond to the concerns and to ask any questions
  • ensure that due consideration has been given to issues of equality and diversity and any other issues pertinent to the individual case
  • once all the information has been gathered the meeting should be adjourned for consideration to be given to all the evidence and for a decision to be taken
  • at the reconvened meeting the manger should state clearly the decision that has been taken and reasons for the decision.

The manager should ensure notes are taken of the meeting. Any decision reached should be confirmed in a letter to the employee with a copy to HR Services.

Termination of employment during the probation period (original or extended) will be subject to a one month notice period or pay in lieu of notice where appropriate.

Where a decision is taken to terminate an employee’s employment, the letter to the member of staff should state the reasons for the dismissal, their final date of employment and notice/pay in lieu arrangements. They will also be advised of their right to appeal.

4. Right to Appeal

Where a member of staff’s employment has been terminated during their probation period they have a right to appeal against the decision to dismiss them from the University. Existing appeal panel mechanisms for support staff will be followed. See Grievance Procedure for details.

In order to appeal they should write to the HR Director stating the reason for their appeal within 10 days of receipt of the confirmation of the decision in writing.

Employees have the right to be accompanied to the appeal by a work colleague or trades union representative.

 Where possible, appeals will be considered by a more senior manager (the Appeals Officer) who has not previously been involved in the case. Where a more senior manager is not available, another appropriate manager will hear the appeal. The University will appoint an HR Manager who has not previously been involved in the case to assist the Appeals Officer. The appeal should be heard within 20 days of the HR department receiving the appeal.

The decision taken at the appeal hearing will be final.

5. Related Documents and Forms

Document Control

Title:
Probation Procedure (Support Staff)
Applicable to:
Support Staff, including Research only and Teaching only staff
Date Last Reviewed:
February 2009
Procedure Owner:
Human Resources

Probation procedure for Academic staff

(a) The purpose of probation

Staff who have not previously worked in higher education are normally appointed on a probationary basis. The purpose of probation is to determine whether an appointment should be confirmed. During the probationary period the Lecturer (or exceptionally, Senior Lecturer) will have the opportunity for formal induction, mentoring and support from established colleagues. The probationary period also allows difficulties in performance to be addressed and appropriate action to be taken.

No undertaking can be given when a probationary appointment is made, or when an extension of probation is offered, that the appointment will later be confirmed.

(b) Period of probation

Normally the period of probation will be three years, but in determining the period of induction, previous periods of employment as a Lecturer on a fixed-term basis or another University will be taken into account.

A staff member who has satisfactorily completed a period of probation in the same subject area in another university will not normally be appointed on a probationary basis.

(c) Advice and guidance

  1. All new staff will be required to participate in the regular teaching and learning workshops which highlight a range of the University’s best practice. New Lecturers will be sent details of the mandatory induction training programme for staff new to university teaching, along with the comprehensive central course programme which includes regular workshops on different aspects of academic development.
  2. The University guidelines define mentoring as “a professional relationship…in which an experienced member of staff provides support and guidance to assist in the integration and career development of a new member of staff”. These guidelines are an integral part of the University’s staff development strategy for new academic staff.
  3. The Head of Department is responsible, consulting as appropriate with other members of the department, for appointing a mentor to ensure that advice and guidance are available to a probationer, and for seeing that duties and workload allocated are appropriate for the person concerned.
  4. The Head of Department is also responsible for assessing the overall performance of new Lecturers, with whom he or she is expected to discuss progress at termly intervals. In the case of probationers, such assessment will be informed by consultation with the mentor.
  5. At the commencement of probation, the mentor should provide the Head of Department with a written outline of the proposed monitoring arrangements for the probationer. Reports on the progress of the probationer should be provided to the Head of Department at least once per term. A record of advice given to a Lecturer during the probationary period should be kept.

(d) Criterion for confirmation of appointment as Lecturer

The criterion for confirmation of a probationary appointment is that the probationer shows, within the opportunities available, promise by work and enterprise of continuing to develop in teaching, advanced study, research and administration.

(e) Procedure for confirmation of appointment as Lecturer

A Head of Department wishing to recommend a probationer for confirmation of appointment will send at the appropriate time a written statement and an up-to-date CV to the Promotions Committee giving evidence that the probationer meets the criterion in (d) above. Normally this will be at the end of the second year of the probationary period. The Committee may, after receiving a report from the Head of Department concerned, either shorten or extend the probationary period. The recommendations of Promotions Committee are subject to ratification by Professorial Board.

(f) Procedure in the event of non-confirmation of appointment as Lecturer

  1. A Head of Department who has doubts whether he or she will be able to recommend a probationer for confirmation of appointment will send a letter of warning to the probationer at least six months before a decision about confirmation is made.
  2. A Head of Department intending to recommend non-confirmation of appointment will submit a reasoned case to the Probations Committee, with a copy of it to the probationer, at least two weeks before the meeting of the Committee at which the report will be considered. The probationer may appear, if he or she so wishes, before the Committee to state a case. A probationer who exercises her or his right to appear before the Committee to state a case may be accompanied by a trade union representative or any member of the University whom she or he may invite to speak on her or his behalf. In addition to the right of appearance before the Promotions Committee, the probationer will have the opportunity to make a written submission the Committee.
  3. In the light of the cases presented by the Head of Department and probationer, the Committee may extend the period of probation or offer a temporary fixed-term appointment or recommend non-confirmation of appointment [in accordance with (f)(iv) below].
  4. If the Promotions Committee decides to recommend non-confirmation of appointment, the probationer may have recourse to the appeal stage of the grievance procedure.

Document Control

Title:
Probation Procedure (Academic staff)
Applicable to:
Academic Staff
Date Last Reviewed:
November 1996
Procedure Owner:
Human Resources
 

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