1.1 This procedure should be read in conjunction with the University's policy on probation and will assist managers in the implementation of the policy for new members of professional and support staff.
1.2 The University aims to ensure that the probation process is undertaken for all new employees and is applied in a fair and consistent manner.
1.3 A formal probation procedure helps to ensure that:
- employees are given the support, encouragement, training and guidance they need to understand and achieve the levels of performance required to settle into their role and the department
- 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
- both managers and employees understand the purpose of probation and what is expected of them
2. Length of Probation
2.1 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 staff within Grades 6 - 8
2.2 Any proposed extension to these probationary periods, either before or during the probationary period itself should be discussed by the Line Manager with the Human Resources (HR) Adviser, and should be in line with the guidance provided in section 3.9 of this procedure on 'Extending the Probationary Period.'
3.1 Setting Standards
3.1.1 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.
3.1.2 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 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. This should be in line with the job description for the role. For further information, see the University Induction Policy.
3.1.3 The manager should arrange an initial meeting with the new employee ideally during their first week of employment to help him/her understand the standards required of them and that activities carried out during the job induction may be used to document the employee's performance during the probationary period.
3.2 Initial Meeting
3.2.1 At the initial meeting the manager should:
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:
- induction checklist
- 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, the sickness reporting procedure and the procedure to be followed in the case of the sickness of dependents
- working environment
- health and safety
- security arrangements
- training and development needs, including mentoring opportunities
3.2.2 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. To assist with setting objectives visit the performance management section.
3.2.3 Identify and put in place ways to address any training and development requirements.
3.2.4 Explain fully the probation procedure to be followed
3.2.5 Agree dates for further review meetings, including formal review meetings at which any support needed to assist the individual in achieving their objectives will be considered
3.2.6 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 ensure that the employee has a clear understanding.
3.3 Probation Review Procedure
3.3.1 Throughout the probation period an employee's performance and conduct 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.
3.3.2 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
3.2.3 A Probation Review Form is provided for this purpose and must be signed by the employee and their 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 should take place during the probation period of every new member of staff.
3.2.4 It is the responsibility of the manager to carry out the formal reviews in a timely fashion.
3.2.5 The purpose of the formal review meetings is to assess and document the standards of work performance, conduct and attendance of the employee against the objectives set at the initial meeting and to identify any further support, training or guidance which is required.
3.3.6 Formal reviews should be set up in advance so that both parties have time to prepare for the meeting.
3.4 Review Meetings
3.4.1 As part of the formal review meeting managers should:
- acknowledge good performance and achievements so far
- discuss the employee's performance against the requirements of the position detailed in the job description
- discuss the employee's performance against any objectives set at previous meetings
- 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 these can be achieved
- provide support and guidance
- be sensitive to issues of equality and diversity, seeking guidance as appropriate
- review time keeping and attendance, including any sickness absence
- confirm date for next review meeting
- document the details of the review meeting on the probation form
3.5 Probation Form
3.5.1 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.
3.5.2 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.
3.5.3 During the probation period a copy of the form should be held by the Line Manager, in line with confidentiality and data protection guidance, with a copy of the form supplied to the employee after each review meeting.
3.6 Confirmation of Appointment
3.6.1 The manager should confirm verbally, as well as on the probation review form, whether or not the employee has completed their probationary period successfully at the final review meeting.
3.6.2 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.
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 a formal review meeting. Support in managing any difficulties can be sought from the HR Adviser.
3.7.1 Informal Meeting to Discuss Concerns
Where difficulties arise the manager should meet with the employee, informally in the first instance to:
- clarify what the difficulties are in detail - specifying 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 objectives 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 objectives
- set dates when the objective should be met
- monitor the employee's performance/conduct/attendance and review them at the time of the objective dates
- explain what the consequences may be if the standards/objectives 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).
3.8 Formal Meeting to Discuss Concerns
3.8.1 If an employee's performance, conduct and/or attendance does not improve following an informal meeting, within a reasonable and realistic timescale, it may be necessary to discuss the matter at a more formal meeting.
3.8.2 Where a formal meeting is to be arranged to discuss difficulties during probation, advice should be sought from an HR Adviser, 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 how s/he has fallen short of the required standards and they should be provided with evidence of this, where available, prior to the meeting.
3.8.3 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 letter inviting them to the meeting.
3.8.4 At the formal meeting the steps set out in the above informal process should be repeated. An extension to the probation period may be applicable at this point (see section 3.9).
3.8.5 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 and/or attendance by the time of the end of the probation period, they may not be confirmed in post, and could therefore have their employment with the University terminated. If this meeting takes place during an extension period, the employee should be informed a further extension is unlikely.
3.8.6 The manager should confirm in a letter to the employee the details and actions of the meeting, sending a copy to the HR Adviser and retaining a copy. Advice on letters to confirm actions taken under the formal procedure should be sought from the HR Adviser.
3.8.7 The above steps should continue to be followed and monitored during the formal review meeting process.
3.8.8 Where an employee does not reach the required standards of performance, conduct and/or 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 Extending the Probationary Period
3.9.1 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 a disability or to maternity leave advice should be sought from the HR Adviser.
3.9.2 In exceptional circumstances where it is felt that an employee has not yet demonstrated their suitability, but is likely to do so, given more time, the probation period may be extended.
3.9.3 Extensions could be for a period from 1 month up to a maximum of 6 months (in exceptional circumstances) depending on the issues being addressed and affording an appropriate level of time and opportunity for the individual to achieve the required standards. Managers should be aware that employees gain greater employment rights with length of service. It is therefore advisable that all extensions to an employee's probation period should be discussed with the HR Adviser.
3.9.4 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
3.9.5 The manager should confirm in a letter to the employee the details and actions of the meeting, including confirmation of the extension retaining a copy for the department's personal file and sending a copy to the HR Adviser.
3.9.6 Monitoring will continue through the probation period extension, and the employee and their manager will meet to formally review progress.
3.9.7 If performance is deemed to be satisfactory then a final copy of the Probation Review form should be completed, signed by both parties, and retained by the department.
3.9.8 Where an employee has not reached the required standards of performance, conduct and/or 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. This differs from the University's Disciplinary, Capability and Managing Ill Health and Sickness Absence Procedures which apply after confirmation in post.
3.10 Non-Confirmation of Appointment
3.10.1 Non confirmation should be considered where the employee has been taken through the procedure as described in the section on 'Difficulties During Probation' and has failed to attain the required standards, except in more extreme cases (see section 3.10.3).
3.10.2 Where an employee has failed to achieve the required standards of performance, conduct and/or attendance required for their position, they should be invited to a formal final review meeting to discuss this in order to reach a decision about their suitability to be confirmed in post.
3.10.3 Where conduct, capability or attendance issues are sufficiently serious and there are concerns the individual is unable to fulfil the requirements of their contract, the procedure detailed in 'Difficulties During Probation' may be omitted and this procedure followed from section 3.10.4.
In such exceptional circumstances, suspension may be considered. Any decision to suspend would be taken by a Senior Manager in consultation with HR.
3.10.4 The employee should be invited in writing to attend the meeting, allowing appropriate notice. The letter should state how 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.
3.10.5 The employee 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 inviting them to the meeting.
3.10.6 Guidance should be sought from an HR Adviser who, where appropriate, may also be in attendance at the decision meeting.
3.10.7 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 relevant 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 it
3.10.8 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 the HR Adviser.
3.10.9 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.
3.10.10 Where a decision is taken to terminate an employee's employment, the letter to the employee 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
4.1 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. 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.
4.2 Employees have the right to be accompanied to the appeal by a work colleague or trades union representative.
4.3 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 Adviser 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.
4.4 The decision taken at the appeal hearing will be final.
5. Appeal Procedure
5.1 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
5.2 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.
5.3 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.
5.4 The employee will make a final submission then the employee presenting the University case will make his/her final submission.
5.5 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.
5.6 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.
5.7 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.