Probationary protocol

This information is for guidance - it is not incorporated into the contract of employment or local condition of service and will be subject to periodic review taking account changes to process and best practice.

1. Aim

This protocol aims to provide a framework to assist line managers and employees on probation to understand the purpose of the probationary period, and their roles and responsibilities.

2. Objectives of the council's probationary process

  • To provide a clear framework for assessing an employee against the requirements for the post to which they have been newly appointed.
  • To provide for appropriate induction, training and performance review of new employees.

3. Scope

All staff newly appointed to the council, irrespective of continuous service within local government, will be subject to a probationary period of six months.

Probationary periods do not apply to:

  • agency workers or self employed consultants
  • where existing staff are assessed and appointed onto the next grade within a career grade/link graded post
  • staff transferred to the council under Tupe regulations
  • secondments
  • where a change of grade is a result of job evaluation
  • appointment of an existing member of staff to a different post within the council (subject to successful completion of a previous probationary period when joining the council)

4. Line manager responsibilities

4.1 To provide a service induction which will include an explanation of the standards of conduct and performance required and how they will be assessed.

4.2 To familiarise the new employee with the probation process and council's performance management scheme and agree appropriate objectives. (Assessment of performance during the probationary period will normally include a review of these objectives).

4.3 To inform the employee of expected standards in relation to attendance and time-keeping and to monitor and raise any cause for concern with the employee as soon as possible.

4.4 Identify any concerns and discuss them clearly with the employee at the earliest opportunity. Where aspects of performance require improvement set clear objectives and timescales.

4.5 To provide support and job specific training and monitor work in order that the employee receives reasonable assistance to fulfil the responsibilities of the post.

4.6 Where practicable, provide the opportunity for the employee to demonstrate their ability to carry out the full cycle of work.

4.7 Note: line managers will provide support and guidance to staff who are carrying out new duties; for example, as a result of an internal appointment or career grade progression, This will normally take the form of a schedule of informal meetings to discuss progress and training. In these circumstances where serious performance concerns are identified the council's capability procedure will be followed.

5. Conduct of formal probationary meetings

A line manager will normally be in regular contact with a new member of staff to discuss and provide on-going feedback, assess performance and training needs. Formal probation meetings at three and six months provide structure to these discussions. The line manager is responsible for notifying the employee of the review meetings in advance so that both parties have time to prepare. The three month meeting will normally include the following:

  • an explanation of the performance level expected, how it will be measured and monitored
  • summary of the support/training available
  • an opportunity for the employee to discuss their view of how they are progressing
  • an indication of progress against the standards expected
  • where concerns exist the line manager will provide:
    • a detailed explanation of how the standard is not being reached with examples illustrating areas of concern
    • confirmation of what the employee must do to achieve an acceptable standard and where appropriate what support will be given
    • an opportunity for the employee to discuss possible reasons and what support and training they consider may assist them to reach the required standard
    • an explanation that failure to reach the required standard will result in the withdrawal of the qualified offer of employment and dismissal

Following the formal meetings the line manager is responsible for keeping a record of discussions, completing the probationary forms and liaising with HR regarding any issues.

Note: A line manager may arrange a formal probationary review meeting at any time during the probationary period should conduct or performance cause serious management concern.

An employee may request a formal probationary meeting with their line manager at any time during the probationary period.

6 Employee responsibilities

6.1 To attend the council's corporate induction course, health and safety courses and any job specific training arranged by your line manager. Failure to attend may result in the withdrawal of the qualified offer of appointment.

6.2 To carry out work to the best of their ability and utilise the available support and guidance in order to achieve the standards required for the post. This includes becoming familiar as soon as possible with the council's codes of conduct, policies and procedures and any service specific codes of conduct.

6.3 To alert the line manager to any difficulties which may impact on the standard of work and/or of any training which may assist.

6.4 To prepare for and actively participate in the formal probationary review meetings.

7 Role of HR

7.1 To arrange the corporate induction programme

7.2 To provide new employees with information regarding HR policies and procedures

7.3 To provide line managers with access to probationary documentation

7.4 To provide advice and assistance to line managers on the management of the probationary process

7.5 Following the line manager's assessment, to formally confirm to the employee in writing the outcome of the probationary period.

8. Extension of the probationary period   

8.1 In exceptional circumstances line managers, (in consultation with HR), may extend a probationary period, for example:

  • where it has not been possible to assess performance, this could arise for example as a result of authorised absence
  • performance is not satisfactory but the line manager has evidence to suggest that performance is likely to improve with a further period of probation

Probationary periods should not normally be extended by more than three months and may not extend beyond ten months from the date of appointment.

8.2 Where it is proposed to extend a probationary period the line manager will confirm in writing the detailed reasons for the proposal. The employee will be invited to a meeting at which they may bring a colleague or union representative. Discussions should include the following and the outcome confirmed in writing:

  • reasons for the extension
  • areas for improvement and an indication of how these will be measured
  • length of the extension period
  • details of any assistance that can be reasonably provided during the period of the extension
  • confirmation that at the end of the extension if the employee does not meet the required standards the qualified offer of employment will be withdrawn and the employee will be dismissed.
  • at the end of the extension the line manager will meet with the employee to discuss their assessment.

9. Confirming/withdrawing the conditional offer of employment

At the end of the probationary period the line manager will either confirm the employee into post or propose that the qualified offer is withdrawn and employment ended.

9.2 Where concerns remain and it is proposed to terminate employment the line manager (in consultation with HR), will write to the employee inviting them to a meeting, setting out the reasons for the proposed dismissal in detail. The employee may be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. During the meeting the employee will be given an opportunity to challenge any evidence and present evidence they consider relevant. The line manager, advised by an HR representative, will adjourn to review the evidence and make a decision which will be confirmed in writing.

9.3  In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to consider dismissal during the probationary process. This may occur in instances of misconduct or where there is evidence that the employee has received reasonable assistance but is unable to meet the expected standard within the probationary period.

Note: Dismissal during the probationary period is excluded from the council's disciplinary policy and capability procedure.

10. Appeal

Where the qualified offer of employment is withdrawn and an employee is dismissed as a result of the probationary process there is a right of appeal to the next line manager not involved in the original decision.

The grounds of appeal should be put in writing to the HR Operations Manager within seven days of written confirmation of dismissal. The appeal will be heard by the appointed line manager advised by an HR representative.

Probation report forms