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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Probation - Administrative Staff in Grades 1 to 5

Scope of Policy

  1. Probationary Period
  2. Support during probation
    2.1 Induction, PDP, Advice and Training
    2.2 Workload
    2.3 Mentors
  3. Probationary Reviews
    3.1 Three month review
    3.2 Six month review
  4. End of Probation Period
    4.1 Confirmation of Appointment
    4.2 Extension of Probation Period
    4.3 Non Confirmation of Appointment
  5. Criteria for Confirmation of Appointment
  6. Criteria for non confirmation of appointment
    6.1 Behaviour
    6.2 Under performance
  7. Right of Appeal

This policy aims to ensure fair, equal and consistent treatment of staff during their probationary period.

  • Probation period length and review dates are agreed at appointment by HR and line manager/supervisor and included in the Contract of Employment.
  • For Posts Grade 5 and below, the probation period is normally 6 months.
  • Any period of absence or maternity leave does not count towards the probationary period.
  • Induction, training and mentoring should be used during the probation period to provide appropriate levels of support to new members of staff.
  • Regular review meetings and a Personal Development Plan (PDP) are completed during the probation period by the line manager/supervisor.
  • Issues of performance during the probation period should be raised with the appropriate HR Manager and remedial action taken.
  • At the end of the probation period a decision on confirmation or non confirmation of appointment is made. Exceptionally, in some cases, probation may be extended.

1. Probationary Period

All new staff, except casual staff and staff on short fixed-term contracts of 6 months or less, are initially appointed for a 6 month probationary period.

The probationary period may be shorter when the appointment is for a fixed term of six months or less.

The probation term and dates for review are outlined in the member of staff's Contract of Employment.

Any significant period of absence or maternity leave taken during the specified probationary period does not count towards the completion of the probationary period.

At the end of the probationary period, probation may only be extended, usually by a maximum of three months, except where extension is due to absence or maternity leave.

2. Support during probation

2.1 Induction, PDP, Advice and Training

On appointment it should be made clear what the requirements of the job are and the aspects of work to be assessed during and at the end of your probation period. A PDP must agreed between the line manager/supervisor and the member of staff to set objectives for the probationary period.

The line manager/supervisor is responsible for making arrangements to provide the necessary advice and training for new members of staff.

New members of staff should be encouraged to work through our online induction - or attend the Staff Induction Event (available twice per year). They may also participate in in-house courses and other courses relevant to their work.

2.2 Workload

Day-to-day duties and workload allocated to probationary staff should be in line with their job description.

2.3 Mentors

It is strongly recommended that where practicable, line managers/supervisors formally nominate a colleague who is not on probation to act as a mentor to new staff. The name of the mentor should be included in the Contract of Employment and introduced to the new member of staff on their first working day.

For further details on mentoring visit

3. Probationary Reviews

At any point during the probation period or at a review stage, if issues of performance or behaviour are identified, the line manager/supervisor or Head of Section is advised to contact their HR Manager.

During probation, the performance of new members of staff is assessed by at least one review meeting.

The review meeting(s) will review progress against the agreed PDP and are conducted by the member of staff's line manager/supervisor.

Please note: HR will not send a reminder about the PDP or probation review dates. When the new member of staff accepts their offer of employment, probation requirements will be outlined in an automatic email sent from HR via iGRasp. The PDP and reviews should be diarised and led by the line manager/supervisor.

3.1  Three Month Review

Three months after the start of employment, the line manager/supervisor will hold an informal interview with the new member of staff to discuss their progress.  The PDP should be discussed and updated during this meeting.

Attention should be drawn to any points of concern so remedial action can be taken in good time. The PDP and review are designed to alert the member of staff, line manager, Head of Section and HR to any problems. 

3.2  Six Month Review

Six months after the start of employment, a final review will be held.  At this point, the line manager/supervisor should review the PDP with the member of staff and where satisfactory performance has been achieved, their appointment will be confirmed (see section 4 and 5).  

The member of staff will be asked to sign the PDP and given a copy of the signed, completed PDP.  A copy is also sent to HR for the member of staff's personal file.

3.3 Annual Staff Review

If the member of staff's probationary period coincides with the Annual Staff Review (ASR) process, combine the ASR meeting with the three or six month review meetings and use the PDP to record objectives and progress.

4.  End of Probation Period

At the end of the probationary period, following the final review at six months, the University can offer confirmation of appointment, or will have taken steps to end the appointment (with proper notice - see Section 6), or will extend probation for a final period.

4.1 Confirmation of Appointment

To confirm an appointment at the conclusion of the probationary period requires a positive act of decision by the member of staff's line manager/supervisor. See Section 5.

4.2 Extension of Probation Period

Extension of probation is exceptional and is made without commitment to confirm the appointment, and re-assessment is based not just on performance during the extension but on the entire probationary period. Clear targets should be agreed during the extension and achievement of these targets will be taken into account but may not be the only determining factors.

4.3 Non Confirmation of Appointment

Where non confirmation of appointment is being considered, see the University's Regulation for Dealing with Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation (Part 3 - Procedure for Staff in Grades 1 to 5). 

If non confirmation of appointment is being considered, discuss the situation with HR as soon as possible.  

5. Criteria for Confirmation of Appointment

The primary consideration for the University in deciding whether or not to retain a member of staff at the end of probation must be the long-term interests of the University itself, of the other members of its staff, and of its students.

To confirm appointment following probation, the University must be satisfied that a member of staff has:

  • satisfied the requirements of the PDP;
  • carried out assigned and varied tasks to high standards, and
  • shown potential for continuing development by his/her work, enterprise and commitment.

6.  Criteria for non confirmation of appointment

6.1 Behaviour

Some very exceptional forms of behaviour may seriously harm the capability, good order or morale of a Department or School. Such behaviour, if proved, may also be a proper reason to end a probationary appointment without notice - refer to the disciplinary procedure and the section on gross misconduct.

6.2 Under Performance 

Where there are serious concerns about underperformance during probation, the Regulation for Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation will be followed.

If declining to retain a probationary member of staff on the grounds of inadequate performance or insufficient promise or personal unsuitability, the University must be able to show that remedial actions were taken:

(a) training was available and participation encouraged, and
(b) continuing advice and help towards improvement were offered, and
(c) due warning was given of poor performance by the Head of Section, or his or her nominee.

It is important that advice and warning where warranted should be given as early as possible and repeated as often as necessary. In addition to the reviews and PDP, a detailed record should be kept by the line manager/supervisor, this should be detailed enough to enable it to be produced in evidence if required. In particular, details of the advice and warnings given must be included.

Where matters are sufficiently serious to justify consideration of non-confirmation of appointment an oral, then written warning should be given and a copy placed in the probationary record. The written warning should specify the deficiencies concerned, the action to be taken to remedy them, and the timescale for further review.

Written records are essential to enable the University to show that it has acted reasonably in connection with (a) to (c) above.

7. Right of Appeal

Please see the Regulation for Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation (section 7) for details of the appeal process.



Updated: March 2012