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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Probation - Administrative and Management staff in Grades 6 and above


All new administrative and management staff are required to undergo a period of probation at the beginning of their appointment. This is normally for a period of one year, unless otherwise agreed by the Division Head. The principles of probation for administrative and management staff are:

  • the probationary period is strictly limited
  • within the probationary period, a decision on confirmation of appointment must be reached
  • the Head of Department is responsible for ensuring that arrangements are made to provide necessary advice and training
  • day-to-day duties and workload allocated to probationary staff should be appropriate for their position and experience
  • the Head of Department should appoint a mentor with appropriate professional expertise to help new staff make an effective contribution as quickly as possible.

Probationary Period and Personal Development Plans

Administrative and management staff in Grades 6 and above, are appointed with a probationary period of one year. Early in their appointment (i.e. within the first six weeks) a Personal Development Plan (PDP) must be drawn up to ensure that the new member of staff has a clear idea of what is required. The PDP should contain specific objectives to be assessed by their line manager at the end of the year. Both managers and new appointees are encouraged to use the probation period wisely to ensure that the right appointment has been made from both the point of view of the organisation and the individual concerned.

Regular Reviews and Remedial Action

There should be regular reviews during the probationary period so that appropriate action can be taken, such as the provision of additional training or guidance, if a new member of staff is finding it difficult to settle in or not performing to the requisite standards.

Six months after their start date, a review of progress against the PDP will take place between the member of staff and their line manager. If there are any issues or concerns, please contact HR at the earliest opportunity for advice and guidance.

HR will write to the Head of Department nine months after the member of staff's start date to remind the department to complete a review of progress against the PDP and to complete a final review before the 12 month point is reached.

Annual Development Review (ADR)

All staff will have an annual review meeting which will provide an opportunity for staff to discuss their role and to highlight any development required to help them carry out their role. The ADR will also provide staff with feedback on their performance and an opportunity to agree priorities for the coming year. These review procedures are expected to supplement existing methods of providing support and encouragement to staff on probation.

There is clearly some overlap between Annual Developemnt Review and probation, it is therefore recommended that staff on probation have one review meeting that encompasses the probationary requirements and also covers the development aspects of the ADR. More information on the ADR can be found here.


All new staff will have access to someone who knows the job and how to access the right people for the right information and advice. It is the responsibility of the Head of Department to ensure that an appropriate mentor is appointed. For further information see Mentoring.

Confirmation of Appointment

At the end of the probation period, at around 12 months after their start date, a final review meeting should be held using the PDP document. Assuming performance is satisfactory, a recommendation that the member of staff is confirmed in their appointment should be made by the Head of Department to the Divisional Head (or nominee).

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:

  • carried out assigned and varied tasks to high standards as evidenced by the completed PDP, and
  • shown potential for continuing development by his/her work, enterprise and commitment.

Once the line manager and member of staff have reviewed, completed and signed the PDP document, a copy of the PDP should be sent to the Divisional Head (or nominee) for approval. A copy of the completed PDP should be given to the member of staff and copy sent to HR for their personal file.

Non-Confirmation of Appointment

The instances when an appointment may not be confirmed are likely to be rare. The University must however be able to show that the offer of confirmation of appointment following probation was not unreasonably withheld. If this course of action is considered, please seek advice from HR at the earliest opportunity.

If the appointment is not to be confirmed after the probationary period, steps will be taken to end the appointment with proper notice or the probationary period may, exceptionally, be extended without committment, by agreement with the Division Head.


Probationary members of staff are expected to undertake, effectively and efficiently, administrative tasks that are assigned by your head or department or School. They are also expected to support and collaborate appropriately with administrative and technical colleagues, making an active contribution to an inclusive community in which diversity is embraced and celebrated.

It is important to note that certain types of conduct are extremely damaging to the good order, performance and morale of a department, school, faculty and across the University, and are unacceptable. Examples of good citizenship and conduct are:

  • active engagement with colleagues and accepting delegated responsibilities;
  • ready co-operation with legitimate requests;
  • creating good working relationships with colleagues and others;
  • acceptance of legitimate criticism of conduct or job performance;
  • fulfilling commitments; being punctual, notifying sickness absence in good time;
  • adherence to the University's harassment and bullying policies;
  • respect for colleagues at all levels and avoidance of verbal aggression;
  • contributing positively to meetings or training events;
  • maintaining confidentiality.


Where there are issues of performance or capability, the Supporting and Managing Performance Regulation 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 final probation report, a detailed record should be kept by the line manager or Head of Section, 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. If the University is shown to be in serious default in respect of (a) to (c) above, it may retain the right not to confirm the appointment, but it may face arguments for an extension of the probationary period or confirmation of appointment.

Extension of probation

Extension of probation is exceptional and made without commitment to confirm the appointment.

Right of Appeal

Probationary members of staff are not subject to the University's agreed disciplinary and appeals processes, but the Supporting and Managing Performance Regulation will be applied.

Updated: March 2012