Policy and Procedure
- 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.
- This policy and procedure set out the University's approach to probation for new members of academic (Teaching and Research) staff, aiming to ensure the University meets its commitment to the fair, equal and consistent treatment of staff with regard to the probation period.
- Deans of Faculty, HoDs and probationary Lecturers should read this policy and procedure.
- This policy and procedure relates to all newly appointed lecturers (who are carrying out both Research and Teaching) at grade 7 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Dean in consultation with HR, will agree whether the 9-month probation period should apply to an individual member of staff.
- 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.
- Staff falling within the probation period will be subject to the University's disciplinary and sickness absence procedures.
- 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.
- 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 engaged with and is in the process of completing or has completed 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
- Equality of opportunity
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 Human Resources for clarification or advice.
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.
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.
- Mentoring support
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.
- Performance Review
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.
- Professional Development
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 negate the expectation to complete PGCAP. The Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students in consultation with the HoD must approve any exemption from completion of PGCAP. If the appointment is part-time or there is other objective justification, a longer timescale for completion may - in exceptional circumstances - be agreed that will not preclude successful completion of probation.
- 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.
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.
An academic 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.
- 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 Head of Department / Department Admin will provide the Faculty Admin team with a copy of the Lecturer Probation Plan no later than 2 months after their appointment, setting out their objectives for the first 12 months. 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.
Where concerns are identified within the first 12 months of the probationary period the Head of Department will submit an interim report to Dean at 12 months.
The Head of Department will provide the Dean with a Final Report on work and progress at 21 months into the appointment.
This report will include an update on progress with PGCAP (unless exempt) and a copy of the lecturers CV derived from PURE.
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 inaccuracies or omissions.
The Final HoD report(s) are submitted to the Dean for approval.
- Once approved by the Dean, the Faculty Admin team will then send a formal confirmation letter to the academic Head of Department and copy in central HR who will notify Academic Promotions Committee.
If the individual's probationary period is 9 months, review meetings will take place at 3, 6 and 9 months.
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.
- 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 Dean and the HR Adviser for the department.
- 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.
- 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 Adviser 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.
- 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 the Dean and the HR Adviser. 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Formal procedure/meeting - Chaired by HoD
- Where a formal meeting is to be arranged to discuss difficulties during probation, discussion should be held with the Dean and advice sought from the HR Adviser who will also be present at the meeting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The HoD should confirm in a letter to the member of staff the details and actions of the meeting. This may include an extension to their probationary.
- 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.
Final Formal (Decision) Meeting - Chaired by the Dean of Faculty
Non-confirmation in post
- 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.
- Where a member of staff has failed to achieve the required standards of performance required for their position, the HoD will recommend to the Dean of Faculty that the member of staff should not be confirmed in post. A final formal (decision) meeting - to be led by the Dean of Faculty - will be convened to consider this and a decision made about the employment status of the member of staff.
- 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.
- 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.
- Guidance should be sought from the HR Adviser who will also be in attendance at the decision meeting.
At the decision meeting the Dean of Faculty 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
- The decision reached by the Dean of Faculty 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
- 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.
- 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.
Appeals against non-confirmation of employment
- 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.
- The appeal will be heard by an appeal panel consisting of three senior managers of the University appointed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
|Head of Department / Nominee||
|Faculty Admin Team||
- Approved on: 31 May 2014
- Last reviewed and updated: 8 November 2023