1. Policy and Procedure
1.1 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.
1.2 This policy and procedure set out the University's approach to probation for new members of Academic - Research and Academic - Teaching and Scholarship staff (referred to in this document as Research and Teaching staff) aiming to ensure the University meets its commitment to the fair, equal and consistent treatment of staff with regard to the probation period.
1.3 HoDs, Line Managers and probationary Research and Teaching staff should read this policy and procedure.
2.1 This policy and procedure relates to all newly appointed Research and Teaching staff at Grade 6-8 whose terms and conditions of employment state that their appointment is subject to a probationary period. As new members of academic staff, Research and Teaching staff are required to serve a period of probation before their appointment can be confirmed.
2.2 The length of the probation period will normally be 1 year but may be extended by up to 6 months in exceptional circumstances. If the contract of employment is for less than 1 year, the full period of the contract will be deemed probationary.
2.3 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.
2.4 It will not normally be appropriate to apply a 1-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
2.5 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.
2.6 Staff falling within the probation period will be subject to the University's disciplinary and sickness absence procedures.
2.7 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 1-year probationary period, the University's Capability Procedure will be used.
3.1 The policy and procedure aim to:
- ensure that the individual is supported in understanding and achieving the levels of performance required
- enable the University to be clear before the appointment is confirmed that the individual has demonstrated their capability
- ensure that individuals on Academic - Teaching and Scholarship contracts have engaged with and are in the process of completing the University's Post Graduate Certificate of Academic Practice (PGCAP) (or have approved exemption)
- allow difficulties in performance to be addressed and appropriate action to be taken
4.1 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 Line Manager should contact their HR Advisor for clarification or advice.
* Throughout this procedure the term Line Manager is used to refer to the individual responsible for managing the probation of the new member of staff. It is recognised that sometimes the Head of Department may be the Line Manager
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 member of staff on probation will be expected to have an appropriate and balanced work-load in line with their position as determined by the Line Manager. The Line Manager will discuss and agree an appropriate workload with the probationer which will be confirmed in the Probation Plan.
4.4 Performance Review
4.4.1 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).
4.4.2 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 member of staff 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 Line Manager as soon as possible.
4.5 Professional Development
As a member of academic staff the individual is expected to engage in professional development activities relating to either teaching or research and related departmental roles.
5.1 New members of staff will be made aware by their Line Manager 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.
5.2 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.
5.3 A Probation Plan is provided for this purpose and serves as a formal record of the performance of the individual 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.
5.4 At the outset of the appointment the Line Manager, will discuss and agree with the member of staff 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 individual's work and progress will be reviewed against the Probation Plan and there will be formal reviews at 6 months and 11 months.
6. Procedure when difficulties arise which could lead to extension of probation or non-confirmation of appointment
6.1 The following procedure should be followed when difficulties arise in the probationary period and the performance of the member of staff does not meet expectations. In these circumstances the Line Manager 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 Line Manager has confidence that the individual will be able to meet expectations within a reasonable timeframe.
6.1.1 The Line Manager is responsible for ensuring that appropriate action is taken as early as possible when performance is not satisfactory and should seek advice from the HR Advisor for the department.
6.1.2 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.
6.1.3 For extension of probation or consideration of non-confirmation of appointment, the Line Manager will need to hold a formal meeting which should allow sufficient time for subsequent improvement. The HR Advisor will guide the Line Manager 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.
6.1.4 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 the 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
7.1 Where difficulties arise the Line Manager 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 objectives 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 objectives
- set dates by which the objectives should be met
- monitor and review the individual's performance
- explain what the consequences may be if the standards/objectives 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 Line Manager and agree timescales for completing these, where the member of staff has concerns
7.2 The Line Manager 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 member of staff.
7.3 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 Line Manager
8.1 Where a formal meeting is to be arranged to discuss difficulties during probation, advice should be sought from the HR Advisor who may also be present at the meeting.
8.2 The member of staff should be invited in writing to attend the meeting, giving them appropriate notice. The letter should state how they have fallen short of the required standards and they should be provided with evidence of this, where available, prior to the meeting.
8.3 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.
8.4 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.
8.5 The Line Manager should confirm in a letter to the member of staff - following advice from the HR Advisor - the details and actions of the meeting. This may include a decision that their probationary period be extended.
8.6 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 Head of Department
Non-confirmation in post
9.1 Non-confirmation in post is termination of the individual'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 the individual failing to reach a satisfactory standard of performance during an extension of the probationary period.
9.2 Where a member of staff has failed to achieve the required standards of performance for their position, a final formal - decision - meeting to be led by the HoD, 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.
9.3 The Line Manager will attend the meeting to provide specific information on how the member of staff has not met the required standards of performance.
9.4 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. Guidance should be sought from the HR Advisor who will also be in attendance at the decision meeting.
9.5 At the decision meeting the HoD will:
- provide evidence/examples of the problem/issues to be discussed
- allow the member of staff and/or their representative to respond to the concerns and to ask any questions
- 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 it
- 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
9.6 The decision reached by the HoD will be one of the following and will be confirmed in a letter to the member of staff:-
- To not confirm the individual in post and their employment will be terminated
- To decide that the individual should have their probationary period extended rather than termination of employment
- To decide that the individual be confirmed in post
9.7 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.
9.8 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
10.1 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.
10.2 The appeal will be heard by another Head of Department who 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
10.3 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.
10.4 The Head of Department hearing the appeal 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. Appeal Procedure
11.1 The appeal office will open the hearing with introductions and explain:
- those present and their roles
- the purpose of the meeting which is to consider the employee's grounds for appeal
- how the meeting will be conducted
- the possible outcomes of the hearing
11.2 The employee or his/her representative will first present, stating his/her case for appeal and any evidence in support of it. Witnesses may be called and questioned by the employee and the other parties to the appeal.
11.3 The manager presenting the University's case and his/her advisor will present the reasons why the original decision was taken and call any witnesses. Questions may be put to the presenting manager and any witnesses as above.
11.4 The employee will make a final submission then the employee presenting the University case will make his/her final submission.
11.5 If new facts have emerged or there is any dispute over facts, it may be necessary to adjourn the appeal hearing in order to investigate them and reconvene the hearing at a later date when this has been completed. Any new evidence must be shared with both parties prior to the reconvened hearing.
11.6 When the appeal officer has all the relevant evidence s/he will consider his/her decision after those presenting have withdrawn. This adjournment before a decision is taken allows the appeal officer time for reflection and proper consideration of the case for appeal and any additional evidence that has been presented.
11.7 The decision of the appeal officer may be conveyed verbally to the employee after a period of adjournment unless the appeal officer requires more time for reflection and consideration. The decision will be conveyed (or confirmed) in writing within 10 working days of the hearing. The letter will contain the reasons for the appeal officer's decision as to whether the employee's appeal is upheld.
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.
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14. 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.