Human Resources

Recruitment & probation

Probation (Non-Academic)

Virtually all new staff appointed by the University serve a probationary period, the duration of which is specified by the relevant conditions of service.

Managed effectively, the probationary period serves a two-fold purpose. It allows the probationer to find their feet in a new job within the context of a supportive framework whilst allowing the University, as the employer, to be assured that the new member of staff is "up to the job". In the majority of cases, the probationary period is completed entirely satisfactorily and the appointment is confirmed.

However, in a very small number of cases problems arise which, if not capable of resolution, may lead to an extension of the probationary period or even dismissal. It is the aim of these documents to provide guidance so that all probationers and their departments find the probationary period as productive as possible.

1. Guidance Principles

1.1 These procedures will apply to all newly appointed staff, other than Academic staff. The application of probation for all newly appointed staff cannot be waived (except for internal transfers and promotions).

1.2 All newly appointed staff are required to undertake Induction Training during the probation period. 

1.3 These procedures will also apply to all non academic internal transfers and promotions, unless the appointment panel determines that it should be waived.

1.4 These procedures are intended to:

  • - Give the new appointee structured support when starting a new role.
  • - Provide the University with the means to assess the suitability of the new appointee for the post
  • - Provide both the University and the new appointee with the means to raise any work related issues and resolve them where possible

1.5 The purpose of a probation period is to provide time during which a new member of staff can show, by their progress, that they are suitable for the appointment and to assure the University of its investment in the new member of staff.

1.6 To give the University’s investment in the staff member the best possible chances of success, support will be provided by regular meetings with the probation adviser. The discussions in these meetings are intended to be two-way, providing both parties with the opportunity to agree objectives, to monitor overall progress and to raise relevant issues/ concerns.

1.7 Upon satisfactory completion of probation, the new appointee’s employment will be confirmed. Ongoing support and review of progress will continue under the University’s Performance and Development Review (PDR) scheme.

1.8 Before an appointment can be confirmed, the new appointee must be deemed capable of performing the duties of the post satisfactorily, have demonstrated the required standard of conduct and attendance and have attended all mandatory training.

1.9 Every effort will be taken to provide newly appointed staff with support, where issues are raised. However, action may be taken if it is judged that they are not suitable to be confirmed in post due to unsatisfactory progress, misconduct, lack of capability through ill health, or some other substantial reason.

2. Length of Probation

2.1. The length of probation will be set by the Chair of the Appointment panel for a period of between one and twelve calendar months. In setting the period of probation, the Chair should take account of the relevant experience of the individual and the opportunity to demonstrate competence in the role. (As a guide, probation for Technicians would normally be 6 months and for Academic Related staff (Grade 6 and above) between 6 – 12 months.)

2.2 During the probation period, the notice period of both parties shall be a maximum of 4 weeks.

2.3 The length of probation and the notice period during probation shall be clearly stated in the contract/letter of employment.

2.4 Probation periods should only be extended where there are mitigating circumstances, such as serious illness, maternity leave, where external events have prevented important duties being covered, or where concerns with performance, or other factors, are identified and it is felt that these would improve with further time.

2.5 In circumstances where a probationer is not contracted to work for a full calendar year, the length of the probation period shall be expressed as working time rather than calendar months.

3. Responsibilities

3.1 Head of Department

  • To ensure that the expectations for the post are made clear to newly appointed staff.
  • To provide an appropriately trained probation adviser to enable them to effectively assess progress and provide support. Only in exceptional circumstances would the Head of Department undertake this role.
  • To ensure that new appointees are aware of the policies and procedures associated with probation and PDR (Performance & Development Review), as well as expected standards of conduct.
  • To ensure that the probationer receives adequate support during the probation period.

3.2 Probation Adviser

  • To meet regularly with the probationer to review progress within the role.
  • To provide written notes of probationary meetings to the probationer promptly, normally within two weeks.
  • To provide timely feedback to the probationer, outside of formal written notes, clearly highlighting any areas of concern.
  • To listen to and act upon, any reasonable and appropriate concerns raised by the probationer.
  • To work with and support the probationer to overcome agreed issues
  • To submit a probation monitoring form, at the end of probation

3.3 Probationer

  • To actively engage in the probation process
  • To attend all scheduled meetings with the probation adviser
  • To act upon the advice and seek to address any reasonable and appropriate concerns raised by their probation adviser.,
  • To raise issues with the probation adviser that might impact on progress or development within the role.
  • To proactively seek support and guidance if they have any concerns about their capabilities to perform in their role

4. Probation Meetings

During the probation period, the probation adviser should meet with the new member of staff on a regular basis to discuss work and give advice and guidance on progress in the new role. As a guide, for a probation period of one year, for an early career appointee into a specialist role, monthly meetings may be appropriate. An experienced appointee placed on a one year probation, due to need to assess performance at key points in the year, may need less frequent meetings.

4.1 First Probation Meeting
4.1.1 This meeting should normally take place within the first month of employment in the new role.

4.1.2 The purpose of the meeting will be to clarify and agree expectations/objectives for the probation period and to schedule regular probation meetings.

4.1.3 Clear objectives for the probation period should normally be produced for the probation period and agreed.

4.1.4 Following this meeting, notes of any outcomes/actions should be produced promptly and signed by both the probation adviser and the probationer.

4.2 Subsequent probation meetings, as appropriate.
4.2.1 Further probation meetings should be scheduled at appropriate intervals during the probation period. The frequency of these meetings will depend on a number of factors, including length of probation, frequency of contact between the probation adviser and probationer and the supervision and direction needed to enable achievement of the objectives.

4.2.2 It may be appropriate to review the frequency of the probation meetings on an ongoing basis, for example, where it has been identified that more support is needed.

4.2.3 The discussions held in the probation meetings, should provide feedback on the probationer’s progress and help identify areas for development, or that require improvement. The probation adviser should provide guidance on how to address such areas where possible.

4.2.4 In each probation meeting, the probationer and probation adviser will review progress against the objectives set. A record of the meeting, plus any agreed actions, shall be kept for each meeting and shall be signed off promptly (normally within 2 weeks), by both the probationer and the probation adviser.

4.2.5 It is important that any issues or concerns held by the probationer and/or the probation adviser are raised in these meetings.

4.2.6 Where problems are identified, the probation adviser/line manager should seek to resolve them at an early stage through discussion, coaching and training.

4.2.7 The probation adviser/line manager should record agreed actions from these informal meetings and circulate them to the probationer promptly. Where problems are identified, details of the concerns should be clearly recorded along with the proposed action to address the concerns. Human Resources can provide support in addressing areas of concern.

4.3 Probation Review Meeting
4.3.1 The Probation Review Meeting, to review progress against the agreed objectives, will be arranged to occur at least two weeks before the scheduled end of probation. The probationer should be provided with at least 5 working days notice of this meeting.

4.3.2 If the probation adviser has ongoing concerns about the probationer’s performance, they should write to the probationer at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting to notify them that these concerns are being viewed as good cause for non confirmation of appointment, or to extend probation. This letter should provide the probationer with full details of the concerns, notes of previous meetings and a summary of action taken, to date, to assist them in addressing these concerns.

4.3.3 In circumstances where an extension to probation, or termination of employment with notice, is being recommended, the probationer has the right to be accompanied to this meeting by a trade union representative, or University colleague.

4.3.4 It is not necessary to wait for expiry of the probation period before convening a Probation Review Meeting. For example, it may be appropriate to convene an early Probation Review Meeting if the probationer has been made aware of problems and has been given the opportunity to improve but has not done so.

4.3.5 After the Probation Review Meeting, the probation adviser will decide whether progress has been sufficient to merit confirmation of appointment. The probation adviser should complete the Probation Review Form and send this to the probationer to consider and sign. This form requires the probation adviser to assess progress against the agreed objectives and make a recommendation from the following:

i. Exceptional progress – Appointment to be confirmed
ii. Satisfactory progress – Appointment to be confirmed
iii. Expectations not met in one or more area – probation to be extended
iv. Objectives not met - Appointment to be terminated with notice

4.3.6 The Probation Review Form, along with the agreed objectives and the records of the probation meeting, should be sent to the Head of Department for approval. This should then be forwarded to Human Resources to check that the required process has been followed.

4.3.7 If the probation adviser recommends that probation be extended, or employment be terminated with notice, a full explanation of the recommendation and details of how the probationer has failed to meet the agreed objectives should be included on the form and the Head of Department should indicate whether or not they support the recommendation.

4.4 Recommendation to confirm appointment
4.4.1 If the Head of Department agrees with a recommendation to confirm the appointment, Human Resources will write to the probationer accordingly.

4.5 Recommendation to extend probation, or terminate employment with notice.
4.5.1 When Human Resources receive a recommendation for probation to be extended or terminated, a Probation Review Group will be convened.

5. Probation Review Group

5.1 The purpose of the Probation Review Group is to determine whether a recommendation to extend probation, or to terminate employment, is justified. This Group will receive copies of all relevant paperwork, including the notes from each probation meeting, the Probation Review Form and the justification for the recommendation, as supported by the Head of Department.

5.2 The probationer will have the opportunity to submit a written representation to the Probation Review Group.

5.3 The Probation Review Group will be chaired by the (ALT (Academic Leadership Team) member responsible for the probationer’s department, or their nominee.

5.4 In addition, the Review Group shall comprise:

       i. A member of HRC
       ii. A member of HR

5.5 The Probation Review Group will consider the case, based on all information available and will decide that either:

i. The appointment should be confirmed.
ii. Probation to be extended. The duration of the extension shall be set by the meeting.
iii. Appointment to be terminated with notice.

5.6 The decision of the Probation Review Group will be communicated to the Head of Department (or nominated deputy), who is responsible for communicating the outcome to the probationer and confirming in writing. This letter should provide details of the reasons for the decision, the extension or termination date and outline the appeal procedure.

5.7 The decision of the Probation Review Group will be reported to the Human Resources Committee.

6. Right to Appeal

6.1 Subject to 6.2 and 6.3 below, the Probationer has the right to appeal against any action taken during the probation process, using the University Grievance procedure.

6.2 Appeals against the decision of the Head of Department to extend the probationary period, shall be made under the appeal stage of the Grievance Procedure.

6.3 Appeals against the decision to terminate the employment of a Probationer shall be made under the Probationer’s Conditions of Service, in relation to appeals against dismissal.