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Probation is a formal arrangement at the start of employment whereby new members of staff have the opportunity to confirm their suitability for the role. In order for the probationary period to be used effectively, the duties and responsibilities of the appointment should be made clear to you (see Induction) and the standards against which your performance will assessed. It is the responsibility of the Head of Institution or her/his nominee/representative or the Principal Investigator to ensure that proper induction takes place.

Your supervisor is responsible for managing your probationary period and for reviewing your performance. Where problems are identified these should be discussed with you and brought to the attention of the Head of Institution at the earliest, appropriate opportunity.

The length of the probationary period should take into account the complexity of the role and the cycle of work to be done, allowing sufficient time for you to become accustomed to the new working environment and time for improvement if problems are identified. The probationary period will normally be six months, although it may be shorter for employment of less than 1 year's duration. It may be extended, but this should only occur when there are mitigating circumstances such as serious illness or where external factors have prevented important duties being performed during the probation period.

Progress reviews should take place at regular intervals. It is suggested that reviews take place more frequently during the first month and then monthly if your progress is satisfactory. The tone of the reviews should be constructive, giving you positive feedback on what is going well and helpful advice on how to make any desired improvements. The relevant documentation should be completed (PD/PROB/R4), with a copy sent to you and one retained on your personal file held by the institution.

Regular reviews should identify any problems at an early stage. Reviews should ensure that you understand the requirements of the post, any improvements which need to be made and the methods by which improvements are to be achieved. This may include an increased level of supervision, guidance or training. Each review should be documented and signed by you. If problems are not resolved, the member of staff should be informed that, unless there is an improvement, the appointment will not be confirmed. Reviews should include consideration of the extent to which you demonstrate:

  • The skills and knowledge necessary for success in the post.
  • An ability to produce work of an acceptable quality and quantity.
  • An ability to communicate and work in co-operation with others.
  • Satisfactory attendance and time-keeping.

The Human Resources Division will produce reports so that your Head of Institution is reminded when your probationary period is due to end. A final review of your performance should take place approximately two months before the end of your probationary period (see document PD/PROB/A4).

Where your performance during probation has been satisfactory, the Head of Institution or her/his nominee/representative will notify the Human Resources Division that the appointment is confirmed through amending the central staff record accordingly. The Head of Institution or her/his nominee will inform you that probation has been satisfactorily completed.

Where performance during the probationary period has not been satisfactory the Head of Institution or her/his nominee/representative will contact the appropriate HR Business Manager/HR Adviser for guidance prior to informing the member of staff that employment is to be terminated. Reference should be made to the review documentation accumulated. It is not necessary to wait until the expiry of the probationary period to terminate employment, providing the member of staff has been made aware of the problems and given an opportunity to improve performance with appropriate support. Where employment is to be terminated, the member of staff will be given four weeks notice of the termination date, will be informed of the right to appeal and given guidance on the procedure for submitting an appeal.

Where your appointment is confirmed following the probationary period the Principal Investigator will agree with you work objectives to be achieved in the following period and an action plan covering longer-term development needs.