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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Research Staff in Grades 6 to 9

What is Probation?

All new research 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 Faculty PVC. The purpose of this probationary period is:

  • to enable the University to be confident that you are able to fulfill the full range of duties of the post to the required standards before confirming appointment;
  • to provide you with advice and guidance at the start of your appointment and to support your career development.

What are your obligations during Probation?

During probation you will need to:

  • provide regular reports of progress;
  • meet specific objectives to demonstrate satisfactory progress;

Detailed requirements and the expected date of confirmation of your appointment (subject to satisfactory performance) will be confirmed to you at the start of your appointment.

Normal Probationary Period

All research staff are required to undertake a one year probationary period unless otherwise agreed by the Faculty PVC.

Any period of maternity leave taken by a member of staff during the specified probationary period does not count towards the completion of the period of probation.

Probation Process

Early in your appointment (ie within the first six weeks) your Head of Department or PI/Grant Holder will discuss and agree with you a Personal Development Plan which will clearly detail the expectations and outputs you should achieve in order to pass probation.

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. Your PDP and progress will normally be reviewed with your line manager six months and 11 months after your start date.

HR staff will provide advice where such problems are encountered.

Confirmation of Appointment

At the end of the probationary period, assuming performance is satisfactory, the line manager signs off completion of the PDP with the member of staff and a copy is sent to HR to be held on the personal file.

Non-Confirmation of Appointment

Please refer to the Regulation for Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation.

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 was not unreasonably withheld.

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 Department, or his/her nominee.

The Regulation for Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation will be followed where there are serious concerns about underperformance during probation.

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 interim and final probation reports, a detailed record should be kept by the Head of Department (or his/her nominee), detailed enough 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 and a written warning should be given and a copy placed in the probationary record. The written warning should specify the concerns, the action taken to remedy them, and the timescale for further review.

Right of Appeal

Probationary members of staff are not subject to the University's agreed disciplinary and appeals processes, section 7 of the Regulation for Unsatisfactory Performance during Probation will be applied.

Previous probationary service

Provided the duties and responsibilities of your previous post were the same as those required at Durham, new staff who have successfully completed a probationary period at a pre-92 UK university are not required to undertake a one year probationary period at Durham.

Annual Staff Review

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 ASR 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 Staff 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 Annual Staff Review.