Probation - FAQs

Q1 When a person changes post during their employment at Brookes, do they have a probation period stated in their contract?

A1 No, not normally. Current employees who change their role within the organisation, for whatever reason, will be provided with the same level of support  to help them to move successfully into the new role and this will be recorded in their contract. This support will include a structured programme, as set out above, with regular monitoring of performance, appropriate support and training,  training plan, progress meetings, and full supporting documentation. The employee’s continuity of service will not be affected by the change of role. Where redeployment is involved there will be a trial period for both the employee and the University, as detailed in the Handling Redundancies and Redeployment Policy.  If the employee does not reach the required standard in the new post the University’s capability procedure should be implemented rather than the non-confirmation procedure set out in the Probation Policy.

Q2 How early should I contact HR if I have concerns about a member of staff’s performance during their probation period?

A2 Managers should contact HR at the earliest opportunity if they have concerns about an employee’s performance, so that HR can provide any necessary support and advice.  Managers who have followed the probation policy closely will have  documentation provided to the employee showing one or more of the following:

  • clear job outputs, i.e. what the employee will be expected to achieve during or by the end of their probationary period;
  • clear standards of performance that are required with regard to the duties on the job description;
  • clear measurements or standards against which the employee’s performance will be assessed;
  • any agreed development activities such as training courses, mentoring, work shadowing and
  • a description of relevant standards of behaviour in relation to liaison with colleagues or clients for example.

Regular progress meetings between the line manager and the employee should be followed up in writing to provide an accurate record of what has been discussed covering areas of concern, and noting areas where the employee is performing well and where guidance has been provided on required improvements in any areas of concern. The manager should provide a copy of the record made after each meeting to the employee.

By contacting HR early, managers will be best placed to receive focussed advice to guide them through this.

The latest the manager should contact HR with all of the above is 6 weeks before the end of the probation period, but contacting HR at the earliest opportunity is advisable.

Q3 If an academic member of staff is undertaking their PCTHE but does not complete the course within the probation period, what happens?

A3 With the way the PCTHE runs, it is unlikely that a person would complete the course within their probation period.   It is a condition of probation that the member of staff should be in “good standing” with the New Lecturers course and the PCTHE should be completed within the first three years of their employment.  If there are no concerns about the member of staff’s performance and commitment to the PCTHE course, and this has been discussed with the PCTHE course leader, then there is no reason for the probation period to be extended simply because the PCTHE course hasn’t been completed. Line managers should also consider the employee’s engagement (where appropriate) with the ‘first three years programme’ as a whole.

Q4 How long can a probation period be extended for?

A4 There isn’t a specific time a probation period can be extended for, but normally a maximum of 3 months is advised. Regardless of extension period the matter should be brought to a full conclusion before the employee has been in post for more than ten months.

Q5 What are some of the first things a line manager will be asked when they raise the issue of an unsatisfactory probationary period?

A5 It will always be important to demonstrate what initial training & development support has been provided and how the employee’s induction process was managed. Accordingly you may well be asked to confirm that all mandatory training courses have been attended (e.g. ‘Welcome to Brookes’, all relevant health & safety training such as DSE, manual handling, etc.) that you have followed the University induction checklist, had regular 1-2-1 meetings with the employee, done an initial Personal development/continuing professional development plan and more generally talked through any concerns in person with the employee.

See the following links for some further information:

Q6 What sources of training and development are available for line managers to assist them with all of this?

A7 There is a great deal available for managers to help them. Your link HR team can provide 1-2-1 advice that includes coaching, as well as the ability to talk through options with you. There is also a range of formal training courses from a few hours duration to a full day - see following link for more details on those courses: www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/staffcourses/performance_mgt/index.html

Q7 How seriously does the University utilise the probationary period?

A7 Very! Every year the University makes on average over 300 new appointments and without effective management of the probationary periods there would a significant number of serious staffing issues accrued. For the vast majority of cases, interventions are informal yet essential. For a number of others more formal action is appropriate but ensures an employee can be confirmed in post and satisfactorily undertaking their duties.

Each year however a very small number of staff are dismissed because they have not satisfactorily completed their probationary periods and are therefore not confirmed in post. It is the manager’s responsibility to oversee this and make that decision.

Q8 How does induction relate to the probationary period?

A8 Induction is a vital foundation of a good probationary period. The induction checklist gives a ‘script’ for employee and line manager to follow and guidance can be accessed via the following link: www.brookes.ac.uk/services/hr/handbook/recruitment/induction_new_employees/guidelines_induction.html

However more generally induction is widely recognised as starting from day one that an employee starts (perhaps even earlier!) and bodies such as ACAS widely advocate well organised inductions. Indeed ACAS advises that...”It is easy to forget that the selection process is only the beginning of the employment relationship, and the future of that relationship depends to a considerable extent on how the new employee is settled into the job. Most labour turnover is among new employees, and work efficiency is reached only after a period of learning and adjusting to the new environment.

Q9 What about an academics ‘First three years’ programme and how is this linked to a one year probation?

A9 Progress on this programme should be assessed throughout a new academic’s induction and beyond.  It does not stop the ending of the induction year but progress should be reflected upon and noted throughout the first year in relation to induction.

Q10  Can the probationary period be made conditional, for example, completion of a PhD?

A10  Yes, this can be considered on an individual basis and form part of the contract of employment.

Q11 How do we identify the correct person in HR to contact with queries?

A11  www2.brookes.ac.uk/services/hr/hr_teams.html  This link takes you to an intranet page which contains details of which HR staff look after particular Directorates and Faculties.

Q12 I have just recruited someone through redeployment and she was given a standard probation period by HR, even though she was already working for Brookes.  Was this correct?

A12  No, not normally, please contact your link Hr team to clarify the situation as an amended contract may be required. Current employees who change their role within the organisation, for whatever reason, will be provided with the same level of support  to help them to move successfully into the new role and this will be recorded in their contract. This support will include a structured programme, as set out above, with regular monitoring of performance, appropriate support and training,  training plan, progress meetings, and full supporting documentation. The employee’s continuity of service will not be affected by the change of role. Where redeployment is involved there will be a trial period for both the employee and the University, as detailed in the Handling Redundancies and Redeployment Policy.  If the employee does not reach the required standard in the new post the University’s capability procedure should be implemented rather than the non-confirmation procedure set out in the Probation Policy.

Q13  Under what circumstances should you extend a probation period?

Q13 If an employee’s performance is deemed to have been unsatisfactory at the end of the probationary period, or the employee or the manager has been absent from the workplace for an extended period during the probationary period, the line manager may wish to recommend an extension to the probationary period.  This is always on a case by case basis so do discuss this with your own line manager and your link HR team.

July 2012