1. Purpose of the policy
The purpose of this policy is to affirm the University’s commitment to probation as a means of ensuring new staff settle in their positions and become productive and engaged staff members from the commencement of their employment with the University.
2. Policy scope and application
This policy applies to all staff employed in ongoing or fixed-term appointments.
Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to this policy and are critical to its effectiveness.
Cost centre manager means the manager responsible for the budget of the organisational unit.
Probationary period means a defined period of time during which a new staff member’s performance is subject to formal review. During this time, the staff member is provided with clear job expectations, continuing constructive guidance, feedback and support to confirm progress and/or identify difficulties and develop strategies for their resolution.
Probation plan is a document developed by a new staff member and their supervisor that includes a statement outlining appropriate goals, which are based on the requirements of the position as outlined in the position description, and a schedule of formal and informal meetings to monitor and review progress.
Supervisor means the person to whom a staff member reports within the line management structure of the University. The supervisor normally undertakes probation and performance planning and review (PPR) with a staff member, although these responsibilities can be delegated to another appropriate staff member by the supervisor.
4.1 The University of the Sunshine Coast aspires to be regionally relevant and internationally recognised for excellence in teaching, research and engagement.
4.2 A priority is to attract, retain and develop excellent staff as the achievement of the University’s vision depends on the performance and contribution of all staff.
4.3 Probation provides the opportunity to determine whether an appropriate match has been made between a new staff member, the position and the work environment, and whether the staff member is able to perform effectively in the duties of the position.
4.4 The purposes of probation are to:
- Give the University the opportunity to review the staff member’s suitability for and effectiveness in the position to which they have been appointed
- Give the supervisor and the staff member the opportunity to establish a constructive working relationship
- Give the staff member the opportunity to assess whether or not the position meets their requirements and expectations
- Provide the opportunity to take corrective action (through staff development and/or training) to address any deficiency in performance.
4.5 The probationary period is set prior to commencement of employment. The staff member is advised of the length of the probationary period and the name and position of their supervisor through the letter of offer or contract of employment.
4.6 The length of the probationary period:
4.6.1 The maximum period of probation is:
- Professional positions 12 months
- Teaching & Research positions 3 years
- Senior positions 3 years
4.6.2 In determining the length of a probationary period, the staff member’s qualifications and experience and the term of the appointment are taken into account.
4.6.3 For fixed-term appointments, the probationary period is normally not more than half of the term of the appointment.
4.6.4 Where an incumbent staff member with a fixed-term appointment gains ongoing employment in a substantially similar position at the same level, there may be a reduction of the probationary period equivalent to the period of service already rendered to the University.
4.6.5 When an appointment is made through recruitment and selection processes, the Selection Committee recommends the length of the probationary period to the Cost Centre Manager when recommending an applicant for appointment.
4.6.6 For all appointments, the Cost Centre Manager determines the length of the probationary period.
4.6.7 In exceptional circumstances, such as a significant absence due to illness, the probationary period may be extended for a period no greater than half the length of the initial appointment or the term of the absence.
5. The probation plan
5.1 As soon as possible after commencement of employment, the new staff member meets formally with their supervisor to discuss and develop a probation plan.
5.2.1 Subsequent formal meetings to review performance, monitor progress and set goals are normally held:
- For Professional staff, half way through the probationary period and six weeks before the end of the probationary period
- For Teaching & Research staff and for staff in senior positions, at least once a semester and six weeks before the end of the probationary period
5.2.2 For academic staff, the discussion includes clarification of teaching commitments, research directions and outputs, and community engagement opportunities. The requirements of the University’s Student Evaluation of Teaching and Courses (SETAC) - Academic Policy are also explained, particularly the collection and use of student feedback on teaching.
5.3 Relationship between Probation and Performance Planning and Review (PPR)
The probation plan is the initial documentation for Performance Planning and Review (PPR) processes.
5.3.1 For Professional staff, the PPR process normally follows on from probation.
5.3.2 For academic staff, probation and PPR processes converge during the probationary period.
6.1 Human Resources advises the supervisor when an offer of appointment has been accepted. The commencement date and probationary period are confirmed and a schedule for formal probation discussions is provided.
6.2 The responsibilities of the Supervisor are to:
- Ensure the staff member is clear about the duties and responsibilities of the position
- Provide constructive feedback on the staff member’s performance
- Review progress
- Provide assistance and advice and discuss problems and concerns
- Maintain a record of meetings, agreements and outcomes, copies of which are given to the staff member, and
- Identify and ensure action to address any staff development and/or training needs
6.2.1 Before the end of the probationary period, a final probation review is conducted. From this, the supervisor prepares a written report to the Cost Centre Manager on the staff member’s performance over the probationary period.
6.2.2 For academic staff, evidence of effectiveness as a teacher and researcher is fundamental to the final review. The staff member’s academic portfolio, including student feedback on teaching and courses, is used for this purpose.
6.3 The Cost Centre Manager makes a recommendation to the Director, Human Resources to confirm or discontinue the staff member’s appointment.
6.3.1 If the recommendation is to discontinue the staff member’s appointment, the Cost Centre Manager provides a written report outlining the implementation of the probationary process and the reasons for the recommendation.
6.3.2 The Director, Human Resources comments on and provides the report to the Vice-Chancellor and President.
6.3.3 The Vice-Chancellor and President can approve or not approve any recommendation to discontinue an appointment.
7. Outcomes of probation
7.1 If a staff member successfully completes probation, his or her ongoing or fixed-term employment is confirmed.
7.2 If a staff member does not successfully complete probation, his or her appointment is terminated. Where employment of a staff member is terminated in these circumstances, notice is given. Academic staff are given a four month notice period. The notice period for Professional staff is two weeks in accordance with clause 5.1.1 of USC Enterprise Agreement 2014-2018. Payment may be made in lieu of notice.
7.3 The Director, Human Resources advises the staff member of the outcome of their probation in writing.