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Procedures on probation - Academic staff

AMENDMENTS: September 2006
AMENDMENTS: August 2011
                               December 2011
                               October 2014 (amendment Director Human Resources)
                               June 2016

 


Application

These procedures apply to academic staff employed in accordance with:

  1. The University of South Australia Enterprise Agreement 2014
  2. An Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA), where a reference to this procedure is specifically referred to in the AWA

 

Overview

These procedures:

 

Background

The University actively supports staff career development. This commitment aims to strengthen the performance and capabilities of its workforce and to assist individuals to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for personal growth and professional advancement. Probation, Induction, Performance Management, Professional Development and Academic Promotion are all interdependent components of the University's policy and management practices that give formal expression to this commitment. Implementation of these procedures is reflected in a number of ways including the following initiatives:

 

Guidelines

1. Basic Principles of Probation

1.1 All academic staff commencing employment with the University of South Australia will be subject to a period of probation.

1.2 Probation will be managed in accordance with the principles of the probation for academic staff policy.

1.3 After a period of probation the University may confirm employment.

1.4 The probation period may be terminated by the giving of notice on either side (subject to the conditions in the section on Terminating Employment in these procedures).

2. Period of Probation

A period of probation is a useful extension of the recruitment process and should be implemented as a matter of course. Although a thorough and efficient recruitment process should ensure that the selection of the most appropriate candidate occurs in most cases, suitability and compatibility may not be determined until the candidate has commenced in the role.

The probationary period is generally seen as a period of time where:

Subsequent appointments to a position in the University, that require substantially different functions for continuing staff and second or subsequent contracts that require substantially different functions for fixed-term staff may contain a probationary period where determined by the University.

Casual staff moving into a continuing or contract position, or fixed term staff re-engaged on a subsequent fixed term contract where the period of employment prior to the subsequent contract is less than three (3) years (refer to clause 3.2) will be subject to a probationary period of up to three (3) years.

The staff member's contract of employment must state that a period of probation will be undertaken and the length of this period.

2.1 Length of the Probation Period

On commencement of employment with the University, staff members will be engaged on an initial probationary period of up to three (3) years.

The initial probationary period may be varied where the Vice Chancellor (or nominee) decides that no period, or a reduced period of probationary service is required.

The immediate supervisor, upon advice of the Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture and with the approval of the appropriate delegated authority, may negotiate a longer initial probationary period with a new staff member prior to the commencement of employment. The period of probation will have regard to the complexity of the position.

2.2 Fixed term contract staff

A fixed term contract that is less than three years for a new academic staff member will contain a probation period for the duration of the contract. For a fixed term contract of greater than three years, the probation period will be three years.

3. Managing Probation

Managing probation in an efficient and effective way benefits both the staff member and the University. A well managed process allows both parties to assess and make determinations about the employment situation. The guidelines below have been provided as a best practice method of managing the probation relationship.

3.1 Continuing Academic Staff

As the length of probation is a significant period for continuing academic staff (up to three years), the immediate supervisor should be guided by the principles of performance management for the majority of the probation period.

Performance Plan

Within a month of commencement with the University the immediate supervisor should establish a performance plan as outlined in the "performance management guidelines" with the new staff member. This plan should contain clear outcomes and result areas and take into account the guidelines on academic workload and the minimum standards for academic levels. The performance plan should address the development needs of the staff member.

Staff commencing employment on or after 1 January 2014 at levels A � C (including research only staff) will be required to complete the Academic Practice @ UniSA program within their first year of employment. No exemption from participation in the program will be allowed.

The staff member should be made aware of the requirements of the position and the immediate supervisor's expectations. During the probation period, the staff member shall be provided with regular feedback from their supervisor in accordance with the University's "Performance Development and Management Guidelines" as they apply to probationary staff, with respect to their capacity to discharge the responsibilities of the position and any other issues that arise during the probationary period. Regular reviews of the performance plan should occur during the probation period.

As part of the performance plan the immediate supervisor will establish an induction and development program for the academic staff member. The development program shall include:

For staff with a work load that includes teaching, reviews will include consideration of evidence of the staff member's effectiveness as a teacher. The staff member will be required to provide evaluation of their teaching context and particular focus, including student evaluations and the staff member's reflections on these evaluations. This information will be incorporated into the review discussion.

In addition, staff commencing employment on or after 1 July 2016 who have a Teaching Academic workload or a Teaching and Research Academic workload, will be required to undertake a Summative Peer Review of Teaching as part of their probationary period (exceptions to this will only take place in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Head of School/Director). Where undertaken, the information will be incorporated into the review discussion.

For staff who are research active (including those in research only positions), reviews will include consideration of demonstrated evidence of their research and knowledge application activity and its effectiveness. This information will be incorporated into the review discussion. This may include consideration of publications, grants received and research collaboration.

The Formal Review

The immediate supervisor will conduct a formal review of the academic staff member during the third year of probation (generally at least four months prior to the end of probation). This review can be held earlier than the third year if appropriate.

For staff with a teaching and/or research load, the formal review will include consideration of evidence of the staff member's effectiveness as outlined above, including Summative Peer Review of Teaching where it has been undertaken. The immediate supervisor will make a determination on the suitability of the staff member at this review. The immediate supervisor may consult with other relevant staff (such as the Program Director or Associate Head) to make this determination.

The immediate supervisor will recommend to the Pro Vice Chancellor whether the appointment should be confirmed or terminated. See sections 4 & 5 in this document on confirmation of employment and termination within a probationary period for more information.

Unsatisfactory Performance

It is not necessary for the immediate supervisor to wait until the formal review in the third year to make a determination about the suitability of the staff member. If the immediate supervisor considers the staff member's performance as unsatisfactory at any time during probation they should discuss it with the staff member. The immediate supervisor would normally provide any support necessary to help the staff member to improve performance and may implement a performance improvement plan that can be monitored and assessed.

If after a period of reasonable assessment and support the immediate supervisor still regards the staff member's performance as being unsatisfactory they may decide to recommend termination of the staff member's employment in line with these procedures.

Immediate supervisors should ensure that the timing of the formal review or any determination to confirm or terminate employment allows sufficient time to advise the staff member and give them an opportunity to respond to any adverse material which will be taken into account in the decision to terminate, as well as provide the staff member with the appropriate notice period (3 months) if termination of employment is determined.

3.2 Fixed Term Contract Academic Staff

Academic staff engaged on a fixed term contract will normally be managed in the same way as a continuing staff member; however the time lines and the induction program will vary depending on the length of the contract.

Staff commencing employment on or after 1 January 2014 at levels A � C on a fixed term contract of one (1) year or more (including research only staff) will be required to complete the Academic Practice @ UniSA program within their first year of employment. No exemption from participation in the program will be allowed.

Fixed-term staff who commence employment on or after 1 July 2016 who have a Teaching Academic workload or a Teaching and Research Academic workload, will be required to undertake Summative Peer Review of Teaching as part of their probationary period (exceptions to this will only take place in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Head of School/Director).

Immediate supervisors should ensure that the timing of the formal review or any determination to confirm or terminate employment allows sufficient time to provide the staff member with the appropriate notice period (3 months) if termination of employment is determined.

A staff member who is re-engaged on a subsequent fixed-term contract will continue to be subject to a probationary period where the period of employment on any initial contract is less than three (3) years. In this event the probationary period on subsequent contracts will continue until the minimum requirement of 3 years is met.

Where a staff member engaged on a fixed term contract has served the initial probationary period of up to three (3) years, and has been subsequently appointed to a further contract that requires substantially different functions, the contract may contain a probationary period where determined by the University.

4. Confirming Employment

Employment may be confirmed if the staff member is deemed suitable for the position after a period of probation is undertaken. The immediate supervisor will recommend to the appropriate delegated authority (generally the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit or a member of the Senior Management Group) that the staff member's employment be confirmed.

If supported the staff member will be informed that their employment is confirmed and their probationary period has ended. This must happen prior to the completion of the probation period. Academic staff should receive written advice that their employment has been confirmed. Templates are available on the HR Web Site.

The immediate supervisor must take care to ensure that the completion of the probation period does not pass prior to an appropriate assessment of the staff member's skills and suitability for the position. Once the end date of probation has passed the staff member's employment is confirmed regardless of whether they have received written or verbal advice. Local HR Coordinators will review existing probations on a monthly basis and alert immediate supervisors of impending probation end dates.

5. Terminating Employment During Probation

A fixed probationary period does not require the University to keep a staff member in employment for the whole of the period if it is clear, on reasonable grounds, that the staff member is unsuitable for the position.

If a staff member is deemed unsuitable for a position for reasons of performance or conduct, the probationary period may be terminated on the giving of notice on either side. For academic staff members, the required notice period shall be three months.

Payment may be made in lieu of notice.

Termination of employment can only occur through the process outlined below prior to the end of probation. If termination of employment is necessary after the end of probation has passed then the disciplinary procedures in the applicable industrial instrument must be followed.

5.1 The process of recommended termination within a probationary period

The staff member should be managed in accordance with the processes as described in these procedures, ensuring that they are provided with appropriate induction, performance management, and development opportunities, prior to being deemed unsuitable for the position. Once the employee is deemed unsuitable the following termination process will commence prior to the end of the probation period:

  1.  The staff member shall be advised of, and given an opportunity to respond to, any adverse material which the University intends to consider in a decision to terminate employment.
  2.  In cases where the Head of School is not the supervisor, the immediate supervisor recommends to the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit that the employment of the staff member be terminated. The supervisor will be required to provide a written case to support their recommendation for termination.
  3.  The Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit should contact Human Resources immediately to discuss the recommended termination of employment prior to any further action.
  4.  If the case is supported, the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit will make a written recommendation to the Pro Vice Chancellor that the employment of the staff member be terminated.
  5.  A Divisional Probationary Review Panel will be convened and chaired by the Pro Vice Chancellor to review the process and the written recommendation by the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit.
  6.  Following consideration of the advice of the Panel, the Pro Vice Chancellor may support the recommendation by the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit to terminate the employment of the staff member, or extend the probationary period with the agreement of the staff member, or confirm the employment of the staff member.
  7.  If the recommendation by the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit is supported by the Pro Vice Chancellor, the matter will be referred to the Vice Chancellor who is responsible for approval of termination of employment. The Vice Chancellor will consider the recommendations of the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit, Divisional Probationary Review Panel and Pro Vice Chancellor.
  8.  If termination of employment is approved, the staff member will be provided with a written communication confirming the termination of their employment.

5.2 Divisional Probationary Review Panel

The Pro Vice Chancellor in each Division will establish a Divisional Probationary Review Panel to review the process and written recommendation by a Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit to terminate the employment of a staff member. The Pro Vice Chancellor will advise the staff member of the composition of the panel.

The Panel will comprise:

The Panel will provide the staff member with at least seven calendar (7) days notice of its intention to meet to consider the recommendation by the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit. At the same time the staff member will be provided with a copy of the report containing the recommendation and be invited to provide, prior to the meeting any material that the staff member considers relevant to the recommendation to terminate his/her employment.

The Panel may request further information and/or interview the Head of School/Director of Research Institute/Director of Unit and/or staff member as part of its consideration of the matter. The staff member may be accompanied by an academic colleague upon request.

On consideration of all supporting materials the Divisional Probationary Review Panel will provide a recommendation to the PVC to terminate employment, extend probation or confirm the appointment of the staff member.

The staff member shall be advised of the recommendation of the Panel.

6. Appeals and Grievances

Staff members are referred to the Staff Appeals Policy (HR - 6.4) or procedures contained in the applicable industrial instrument (Collective Agreement, Award, Australian Workplace Agreement, contract of employment or legislation) with respect to grievances arising out of the academic probation process.

 

Responsibilities and/or authorities

Immediate supervisor

The immediate supervisor is responsible for:

  1.  Facilitating the performance management process in accordance with these procedures and the performance management guidelines.
  2.  Ensuring that the provisions of the Policy: Probation for Academic Staff are applied to all Academic staff who are on probation in their area.
  3.  Ensuring that unsatisfactory performance is promptly identified and communicated to the staff member.
  4.  Recommending the confirmation or termination of employment to the appropriate delegated authority at least three months prior to the end of probation.

Staff Member

All staff are expected to:

  1.  Understand their role in achieving the University's objectives;
  2.  Share responsibility for the development of their performance and development plan; and
  3.  Actively participate in probation review discussions regarding induction, performance and development goals and outcomes relevant to the objectives of their work area and the University.

Human Resources Manager/Consultant

The local HR Manager/Consultant is responsible for:

  1.  Ensuring local procedures and administrative practices are consistent with the probation policy and procedures.
  2.  Ensuring that the staff personnel files and HR Information records are updated to reflect either confirmation or termination of employment.
  3.  Providing immediate supervisors with a monthly report of impending probation end dates.

People, Talent and Culture Unit

People, Talent and Culture Unit is responsible for the development and continuous improvement of these guidelines.

 

Cross references

  1. Applicable industrial instruments (refers to the applicable Enterprise Agreement, Award, Australian Workplace Agreement, contract of employment or legislation).
  2. Probation for Academic Staff Policy (HR 7)
  3. Performance Management Policy (HR-25) and Guidelines

 

Further assistance

Management and staff may seek further advice from:

 

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