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

Academic Probation

1. Policy and Procedure

  1. The University recognises that a supportive and developmental probation process is vital in providing an appropriate level of support and training for new members of staff on commencement of their employment.
  2. This policy and procedure set out the University’s approach to probation for new members of academic (Lecturing) staff, aiming to ensure the University meets its commitment to the fair, equal and consistent treatment of staff with regard to the probation period.
  3. HoDs and probationary Lecturers should read this policy and procedure.

2. Scope

  1. This policy and procedure relates to all newly appointed Lecturing staff (who are carrying out both Research and Teaching) whose terms and conditions of employment state that their appointment is subject to a probationary period. As new members of academic staff, Lecturers are required to serve a period of probation before their appointment can be confirmed.
  2. The length of the probation period will normally be 2 years for academic (Lecturing) staff but may be extended by up to a year in exceptional circumstances. Also in exceptional circumstances, Heads of Department may recommend confirmation of appointment earlier than at the 21 month point.
  3. Extended periods of leave, for example maternity leave or significant periods of sickness absence, will not be counted as part of the probationary period, which will be extended by the duration of any such absence.
  4. It will not normally be appropriate to apply a 2-year probation period in the following circumstances:-
    • 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
    • where it is deemed that such a period of probation has been served at another research-led HEI
    • staff on fixed-term contracts of up to 3 years

    In these circumstances a shorter probationary period of 9 months will normally apply. The Head of Department and the Academic Co-ordinator in consultation with HR, will agree whether the 9-month probation period should apply to an individual member of staff.

  5. 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 HR.
  6. Staff falling within the probation period will be subject to the University’s disciplinary and sickness absence procedures.
  7. Any cases of poor performance involving capability will be dealt with under the Probation Policy and Procedure detailed below. However, if performance issues continue beyond the 2-year probationary period, the University’s Capability Procedure will be used.

3. Aims

  1. The policy and procedure aim to:
    • ensure that the individual is supported in understanding and achieving the levels of performance required to become established as a permanent member of the academic staff at the University of York
    • allow the University to be clear before the appointment is confirmed that the individual has demonstrated their capability as an academic
    • ensure the individual has undertaken the University’s Post Graduate Certificate of Academic Practice (PGCAP) to support their development as a University teacher (or has approved exemption)
    • allow difficulties in performance to be addressed and appropriate action to be taken

4. Principles

  1. Equality of opportunity
  2. 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. Heads of Departments/Line Managers are expected to have undertaken equal opportunities training; if in any doubt, the Head of Department/nominee should contact their HR Partner for clarification or advice.

  3. Induction
  4. 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 University and learn the key elements of the job within a reasonable and realistic timescale.

  5. Workload
  6. The probationary Lecturer will be expected to have an appropriate and balanced academic load in line with their position as determined by the HoD/nominee. To help them focus on their teaching and research activities they will not be asked to undertake any substantial academic administrative responsibilities for the department during their probationary period. The HoD/nominee will discuss and agree an appropriate workload with the probationer which will be confirmed in the Probation Plan. If exemption from PGCAP is approved, the workload will be adjusted accordingly.

  7. Mentoring support
  8. On appointment, the probationary Lecturer will be allocated a mentor who will not be the HoD or their nominee. The mentor will normally be another appropriately experienced colleague within the Department who will advise and help to guide the member of staff. Should a mentor be appointed as HoD, be otherwise unable to continue fulfilling the role or either party is unsatisfied with the mentoring match, a new mentor will be arranged.

    See Best Practice Guidelines on Academic Mentoring for more details

  9. Performance Review
  10. Staff on probation will be subject to the performance review process detailed in this Probation Policy and Procedure until such time as their probation period is successfully completed. From that point onwards they will be required to participate in the University’s annual Performance Review process. Staff may be recorded as having received a performance review if they have undergone probation review(s).

    The review of performance as part of the Probation Plan provides an opportunity for the member of staff to discuss their role and to highlight any support, advice or development they require. The probationary Lecturer will be provided with feedback on their performance against the Probation Plan and will be expected to agree objectives and priorities. If the member of staff has concerns about the level of support that they need or are receiving, this should be raised with their HoD/nominee or mentor as soon as possible.

  11. Professional Development
  12. As a member of academic staff the probationary Lecturer is expected to engage in professional development activities relating to both teaching and research and related departmental roles. It is expected that they will complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) unless exempt, for example because the probationary Lecturer has completed an equivalent course at another University. Shortening the probationary period to 9 months does not automatically negate the expectation to complete PGCAP. The Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning in consultation with the HoD must approve any exemption from completion of PGCAP.

5. Procedure

  1. New members of staff will be made aware by their Head of Department or nominee of the performance standards expected of them and will be given the support, training and feedback necessary to achieve these standards. The probationary period will be used to monitor the success of the individual in reaching those standards.
  2. Clear, comprehensive and accurate records of probation review meetings should be maintained, including how and what standards are set, how these will be measured and timescales for achieving them.
  3. A Probation Plan is provided for this purpose and serves as a formal record of the performance of the Lecturer during the probationary period. Other material may be used to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the new member of staff in line with their terms and conditions of employment, their job description and the policies and procedures to be followed.

  4. At the outset of the appointment the Head of Department or nominee, will discuss and agree with the probationary Lecturer a Probation Plan, setting out:-
    • Expectations and objectives for confirmation of the appointment
    • Benchmarks for guidance
    • Development needs and how they will be met
    • The probationary Lecturer’s work and progress will be reviewed against the Probation Plan and there will be formal reviews at 12 and 21 months. During the probationary period, the Head of Department will be asked to provide the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC), on behalf of Academic Promotions Committee, with:-
    • An Interim Report on work and progress 12 months into the appointment, and
    • A Final Report 21 months into the appointment

    The probationary Lecturer will usually be given 1 month’s advance notice of the submission of the Interim and Final Reports which they will receive copies of and be given the opportunity to comment on and, if necessary, correct any factual accuracies or omissions.

    PGCAP reports are also provided to the DVC on behalf of Promotions Committee.

    The HoD report(s) and PGCAP report(s) are submitted to the DVC for comment/approval and a summary of successful outcomes is sent to Promotions Committee.

    If the individual’s probationary period is 9 months, review meetings will take place at 3, 6 and 9 months.

6. Procedure when difficulties arise which could lead to extension of probation or non-confirmation of appointment

The following procedure should be followed when difficulties arise in the probationary period and the performance of the probationary Lecturer does not meet expectations. In these circumstances the HoD may recommend an extension of probation or non-confirmation of appointment. Non-confirmation of appointment is termination of the employment contract. Extension of probation may be appropriate when the HoD has confidence that the probationary Lecturer will be able to meet expectations within a reasonable timeframe, which may be up to 6 months or in exceptional circumstances up to 12 months.

  1. The HoD is responsible for ensuring that appropriate action is taken as early as possible when performance is not satisfactory and should seek advice from the Academic Co-ordinator and the HR Partner for the department.
  2. It is important that there is a detailed record in the Probation Plan of work (specific tasks, outcomes, timescales). The Probation Plan should only contain evidence or information relating to problems that have been brought to the individual’s attention.
  3. To justify extension of probation or consideration of non-confirmation of appointment, the HoD will need to hold a formal meeting which should allow sufficient time for subsequent improvement. The HR Partner will guide the HoD on the drafting of any letter which will specify the deficiencies concerned, the actions to be taken to remedy them, the timescale for further review(s) and the consequences if performance does not improve.
  4. Where a member of staff commits a single significant error, or a number of substantial errors which are attributable to incompetence or inability to meet the required standards and the actual or potential consequences of those errors are, or could be, extremely serious, the procedure detailed below may not be appropriate. In such instances, the member of staff may be suspended and the earlier stages of this procedure omitted. Suspension would only be invoked in exceptional circumstances; it is not a penalty and will be on full pay. The decision to suspend will be taken by the Head of Department in consultation with HR. Where serious performance issues arise (and after such investigation as is appropriate in the circumstances) the member of staff shall be invited to a formal dismissal hearing.

7. Informal procedure/meeting

  1. Where difficulties arise the HoD/nominee should meet with the member of staff, informally as soon as practicable to:-
    • clarify what the difficulties are – specifying where and how the individual’s performance is not meeting expectations and providing evidence/examples of the problem/issues to be discussed
    • allow the member of staff an opportunity to raise and respond to any concerns and to explain any difficulties they are facing
    • discuss the action required by the member of staff to address the problem - set targets specifying in detail what standards of performance are required to reach an acceptable level
    • identify any training needs or additional support or assistance required in order for him/her to achieve the targets
    • set dates by which the target(s) should be met
    • monitor and review the individual’s performance
    • explain what the consequences may be if the standards/targets are not met – for example, that it may be necessary to discuss the matter at a formal meeting and that this could ultimately lead to the individual not being confirmed in post
    • discuss any actions required by the HoD and/nominee and agree timescales for completing these, where the member of staff has concerns
  2. The HoD/Nominee should use the Probation Plan to keep a record of the details referred to in the meeting and ensure that this is available to the parties concerned i.e. the HoD/nominee and the member of staff.
  3. If the individual’s performance does not improve within a reasonable and realistic timescale following the informal meeting, it may be necessary to discuss the matter at a formal meeting.

8. Formal procedure/meeting – Chaired by HoD

  1. Where a formal meeting is to be arranged to discuss difficulties during probation, advice should be sought from the HR Partner who will also be present at the meeting.
  2. The member of staff 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.
  3. The member of staff will have a right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative and should be notified of this in the invitation to the meeting.
  4. At the formal meeting the steps set out in the above informal process should be repeated and the support and assistance that will be made available to the individual should be specified. Following the meeting, the member of staff should be given an opportunity to improve their performance and be advised that should they not improve and reach the required standards within the required timescale, they may not be confirmed in post, and could therefore have their employment with the University terminated.
  5. The HoD should confirm in a letter to the member of staff – following advice from the HR Partner - the details and actions of the meeting. This may include a recommendation (made in a written report to the Deputy Vice Chancellor) that their probationary period be extended. In these circumstances the DVC will consider the recommendation and will advise the Head of Department whether or not this is accepted.
  6. Following the formal review period, where a member of staff has not reached the required standards of performance during their probation, despite efforts to address this, the procedure described below should be followed.

9. Final Formal (Decision) Meeting – Led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC)

Non-confirmation in post

  1. Non-confirmation in post is termination of the probationary Lecturer’s employment. This should only be considered where the member of staff has been taken through the procedure as described above and has not met the required standards. This may follow a probationary Lecturer failing to reach a satisfactory standard of performance during an extension of the probationary period.
  2. Where a member of staff has failed to achieve the required standards of performance required for their position, the HoD will recommend to the Deputy Vice Chancellor that the member of staff should not be confirmed in post. A final formal (decision) meeting – to be led by the DVC - will be convened to consider this and a decision made about the employment status of the member of staff.
  3. The member of staff should be invited in writing to attend the meeting, allowing appropriate notice. The letter should include a report from the HoD detailing how they have not met the required standards of performance and advising them that a possible outcome of the meeting could be the decision not to confirm them in post.
  4. The member of staff will have a right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative and should be notified of this in the letter.
  5. Guidance should be sought from the HR Partner who will also be in attendance at the decision meeting.
  6. At the decision meeting the Deputy Vice Chancellor will:-

    • ask the HoD to give the reasons for recommending non-confirmation in post
    • ask the HoD to provide evidence/examples of the problem/issues to be discussed – where appropriate in advance of the meeting
    • allow the member of staff 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
    • ensure that due consideration has been given to any other issues relevant to the individual case
    • adjourn the meeting once all the information has been gathered for consideration of the evidence and for a decision to be taken
    • at the reconvened meeting state clearly the decision that has been taken and reasons for the decision
  7. The decision reached by the DVC will be one of the following and will be confirmed in a letter to the member of staff:-
    • To accept the recommendation of the HoD that the individual should not be confirmed in post and that their employment should be terminated
    • To recommend that the individual should have their probationary period extended by up to 6 months or in exceptional circumstances by up to 12 months rather than termination of employment
    • To recommend that the individual be confirmed in post
  8. Non-confirmation in post during the probation period (original or extended) will be subject to a one-month notice period or pay in lieu of notice where appropriate.
  9. Where a decision is taken to terminate a member of staff’s employment, the letter should state the reasons for the dismissal, their final date of employment and notice/pay in lieu arrangements. They should also be advised of their right of appeal.

10. Appeals against non-confirmation of employment

  1. The member of staff has the right of appeal against a decision to not confirm his/her employment under this procedure. Any appeal should be sent to the Director of HR within 10 working days of the member of staff receiving the written decision to dismiss. The appeal must state the grounds for appeal.
  2. The appeal will be heard by an appeal panel consisting of three senior managers of the University appointed by the Vice-Chancellor and will include academic representation where appropriate. The appeal panel members will have had no prior involvement with the case and the appeal hearing will be a review of the decision to dismiss. Appeals can be made on the following grounds:-
    • The procedure was unfair, and/or the correct procedure was not followed
    • The decision was unfair or perverse because the evidence did not support the decision
    • The action taken against the employee was too severe
    • There is new evidence that was not available at the original hearing to support the employee's case
  3. The decision may be given verbally at the appeal hearing and will be conveyed or confirmed in writing within 10 working days of the hearing.
  4. The outcome of the appeal will be final and there will be no further internal right of appeal. Any dismissal under this procedure will remain in force pending the outcome of any appeal.
  5. The appeal panel will have the authority to reach the following conclusions or to make other recommendations:-
    • Confirm the outcome and decision of the original meeting
    • Uphold the appeal of the individual if the evidence does not support the outcome of the original meeting or if the conduct of the procedure has been unfair
    • Extend the probationary period
    • Adjourn the appeal due to significant new evidence which requires further investigation and consideration
    • Recommend a re-hearing, in consultation with HR, as a result of significant new evidence put forward during the appeal hearing

11. Confidentiality

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

12. Responsibilities

Role Responsibilities
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
Head of Department / Nominee
  • 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 member of staff 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 member of staff
  • Holding regular one-to-one meetings with the member of staff in order to ensure a good working relationship and provide feedback on their 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

13. Monitoring and review

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

14. Approval

This Policy and Procedure was approved by Senate in May 2014

15. Related documents and forms

Title:
Probation Policy and Procedure
Applicable to:
Academic staff – Grade 7 Lecturers – undertaking Teaching and Research
Date Last Reviewed:
August 2014
Procedure Owner:
Human Resources

Probationary lecturers: guidance for Heads of Department

1. Scope

This document provides guidance on probationary arrangements for newly appointed lecturers, whose terms and conditions of employment state that their appointment is subject to a developmental probationary period during which they will be supported in meeting the required standards of performance.

2. Purpose of probation

The purpose of probation is to:

  • ensure that the individual is supported in understanding and achieving the levels of performance required to become established as a permanent member of the academic staff at the University of York
  • allow the University to be clear before the appointment is confirmed that the individual has demonstrated their potential as an academic
  • ensure the individual has undertaken the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) to support their development as a University teacher (or has approved exemption)
  • allow difficulties in performance to be addressed and appropriate action to be taken.

Probation is designed to ensure that the individual receives the necessary guidance and support during their probationary period and that they receive regular feedback on their progress. It is the process through which the performance of Probationary Lecturers is managed and supported.

3. Guidance for Head of Department/nominee

The HoD should ensure that arrangements are in place for the induction of the new member of staff, along with integration and support into the department throughout the probationary period.

It is recommended that the HoD discuss and agree a Probation Plan shortly after the member of staff has started in the role – and ideally within the first month - which sets out clear objectives for the probation period and enables the HoD to address any development needs identified at the recruitment stage.

4. Planning Probation

It is recommended that the Job Description and Person Specification form the basis for the Probation Plan to include objectives that are job-specific, focus on deliverables, skills and behaviours and incorporate a mechanism to ensure all of these are appropriately measured and evaluated. These will focus on teaching, research and administrative responsibilities.

Objectives needs to be clear, concise, understood by both parties and include a mechanism and timescale for review. Further information on setting objectives can be found at:

http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/performance/setting-expectations/#tab-6

It is recommended that the HoD meet with the probationary Lecturer every 6 months to review their progress; more frequent meetings may be needed if there are concerns.

It is recommended that the HoD ensures the probationer has an appropriate and balanced workload and does not undertake substantial administrative roles in their probationary period but seeks to provide opportunities for individuals to demonstrate their leadership and management potential where appropriate.

It is recommended that the HoD arrange mentoring and support for the new member of staff and ensure that the new member of staff is engaged in professional development activities relating to their role and that s/he successfully completes PGCAP (unless exempt).

It will be helpful for the HoD to draw attention to relevant University policies and to the University vision, strategy and principles and to departmental documents such as its research strategy.

5. Managing Probation

Meeting regularly during the probation period will give the HoD the opportunity to provide feedback, recognise what has been achieved and address any issues that may have arisen. It will also afford the member of staff with the opportunity to discuss how they have found the role and any issues they have experienced.

If the HoD has any concerns about performance within the role these should be raised with the member of staff as soon as possible and involve the Academic Co-ordinator and HR Partner at an early stage. The underlying causes should be explored and appropriate action taken to help the member of staff to improve their performance. For example, it may be necessary to identify appropriate training or re-clarify expectations to ensure there is a shared understanding.

6. Reviewing Probation

Reports should be provided by the HoD to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor as follows:

  • An interim report on work and progress 12 months into the appointment, and
  • A final report 21 months into the appointment

HR will provide advance notice of the need for these reports via email to the HoD. It is recommended that the HoD give the Probationary Lecturer one month’s advance notice of the submission of the interim and final reports and provide him/her with a copy of the reports. Where there are difficulties and performance is not satisfactory, the member of staff should be given the opportunity to comment on the report(s) and, if necessary, correct any factual inaccuracies or omissions.

Where there is a clear recommendation to confirm in post and this is fully supported by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this is reported to Academic Promotions Committee. HR will write to the member of staff once confirmation of appointment is received from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor via the completed and signed Final Report form.

If the member of staff is not performing as required and has not met the agreed objectives, the process detailed in the Policy and Procedure should be followed which could lead to non-confirmation in post.

Once probation is complete, the performance of the member of staff will be formally monitored and managed through the University’s Performance Review process.

 

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