Probation for Professional, Research and Support Staff
Below you will find some basic information on the probation process and a list of essential documents required to complete a review. Read through this before you begin the review process. If you have any queries check the Frequently Asked Questions section first, and if you do not find your answer there, please contact HR at ext. 3333 or the HR Staff Performance and Review team directly at ext. 3998.
"The probation period and review process sets a defined period of time during which the suitability for employment of the staff member is assessed by the Line Manager/Principal Investigator."
Probation Review Policy, 1: 'Purpose'
Short term contracts and staff moving to a new post
Usually the Contract of Employment will specify the probation review periods for the employee. Where the contract is for a fixed period of less than 12 months, Probation Reviews must still be completed with the staff member before they leave, as they may move to another area on the same grade – bear in mind that if a contract is subsequently extended or renewed, all continuous employment service at that grade will count towards the 12 month Probation period.
If a staff member is moving to a new grade, e.g. from Senior Executive Officer to an Admin 3, they are subjected to a new probation and new dates will be set up. Please note that in the event of promotion to a higher grade, probation does not apply.
In line with the Probations Policy, at least two formal reviews need to be carried out within the probationary year, however additional review meetings can be set up and arranged if required.
HR sends out email notifications automatically to all managers who have a staff member due their probation in the coming month.
These notifications are sent 4 weeks in advance of the review due date. As the University have identified probations as a matter of high priority we have developed a reminder, and escalation process which will send reminders to the Managers, and will escalate any outstanding probations to the next senior manager, and then to the Faculty Dean/ Head of Division if the probation review is still incomplete.
Below is an automated notification timeline which is representative for both the first and final reviews (this is also available as pdf). The full timeline of automated notifications is available here.
The basic probation review process involves the Line Manager and the Staff Member. Where relevant, the Second Line Manager can be included in the review and assist the Primary Manager.
- HR will notify the Line Manager via the automated notification 4 weeks in advance of the due date
- Line Manager reviews the documentation and consults with the Second Line Manager(s) if applicable.
- Line Manager sets up the Review meeting with the staff member, and Second Line Manager if applicable
- Line Manager(s) fill in the Probation Review Form insofar as it can be completed in advance of the meeting.
- Line Manager gives the form to the staff member (recommended one week in advance of the meeting).
- At the meeting the Staff Member and the Manager(s) discuss the performance areas under review as well as can raise any other concerns they might have (support required, training need, etc.).
- Both parties should complete the comments, and sign the form.
- The Line Manager submits the form to HR.
For more details on the process, and for some additional advice on how to complete a probation review, please see our Guidelines for Managers on the Probation Review Regulations for All Professional and Support Staff of Trinity College Dublin.
Probation Review Meetings
Purpose of Probation Review Meetings
A probation review meeting is a more formal opportunity for the Manager to discuss with their Employee all aspects of their employment and assess their performance against previously set objectives. In the probation form there are listed universal areas of performance, like Timekeeping or Attention to Detail, but the form also allows to include additional skills more relevant to the role.
Training and development
Training and development needs can also be reviewed and agreed, especially if aspects of performance that need to improve have been identified, or if the employee has encountered obstacles or problems that may be beyond their current skillset but still within their ability to improve. In a situation, however, where the Manager recognised areas that need significant improving, they can introduce a Performance Improvement Plan, having advised the employee that not meeting standard may result in their employment being terminated.
A probation review meeting can be as important to the employee as it is to the Manager, as they can learn about their strengths and where things are going well. Praising good performance or achievements and constructive feedback are also important part of the review, as it provides motivation and support to the employee.
The last part of a probation review should be discussion around next steps and objectives for the employee, so they continue to have their minds set for the next goals on their path to excellence. Probation can be a great tool not just to manage the staff member's performance, but also to provide guidance to their future career as TCD Employee.
Benefits of Probation Review Meetings
A probation review meeting is as important to the employee as it is to the Manager. It is a good opportunity for the employee to learn about their strengths and where things are going well. Praising good performance or achievements and constructive feedback are also an important part of the review, as it provides motivation and support to the employee.
Probation and beyond - next steps and objectives
The last part of a probation review should be a discussion around next steps and objectives for the employee, so they continue to have their mind set on the next set of goals on their path to excellence. Probation is a great tool for manage the staff member's performance as well as providing guidance on their future career as a Trinity employee.
Types of Review
As mentioned in the Timeline section above, at least two formal reviews must be carried out within the probation period, but this may not always be the case. The Manager can hold as many reviews as required to assess the Employee's performance, as well as to allow the Employee sufficient opportunity to improve in the area(s) of underperformance.
- First Review
- Usually 4 months from the start date
- Date set on the system by HR Additional reviews
- Decided by the manager
- Can be set on the system upon request
- Performance Improvement Plan Review
- For underperforming staff introduced with PIP
- Can be set on the system with date arising from PIP
- Second /Final Review
- Usually 8 months from the start date
- Date set on the system by HR
Within the form there is a dedicated rating system to allow the Manager to assess the Employee's performance in a clear and coherent manner.
- Performing in some areas only, needs significant improvement to achieve the required standard.
- There are weaknesses apparent in the performance of the staff member.
- Good performance, all objectives were delivered and expectations were met to the required standard.
- Overall staff member is effective in the role.
Expectations met at High Standard
- Very good performance.
- Staff member performing very well to a noticeably good quality, with a high level of output to a high standard.
Note: For the probation review to be recorded as satisfactory, all areas need to be rated at least as "Met Expectations". If the Manager indicates one or more "Below Expectations" ratings, a Performance Improvement Plan needs to be put in place that requires the Manager to schedule additional review meetings.
When completing the First, Additional(s), or a PIP Review, there are 4 possible outcomes available to the Line Manager:
The Manager recommends that a review should be recorded as satisfactory as the candidate's performance meets or exceeds expectations.
b) Further Review and Performance Improvement Plan
The Manager recommends that there are weaknesses apparent in performance which can be overcome with further guidance and additional time. Probation should be further reviewed and a Performance Improvement Plan put in place.
The employee should be advised that failure to reach satisfactory performance will result in the contract of employment being terminated. The Manager should contact the relevant HR Partner for further advice.
c) Extend the probation period
The Manager informs HR that this probation period is to be extended as a result of the staff member having had or is due to take statutory or non-statutory leave in line with the policy.
d) Terminate Appointment
The Manager recommends that the appointment should be terminated due to weaknesses in the performance of the candidate which cannot be overcome at this time. The Manager should contact the relevant HR Partner for further advice and guidance on next steps.
At the time of the Final Review, Managers can recommend the Employee is either a) confirmed in their appointment following probation, or b) terminate the contract due to underperformance and failure to improve.
Recommendation that a review should be recorded as satisfactory. Staff may be confirmed in their appointment following expiry of the probation period (normally at 12 months) subject to satisfactory performance in the period up to the expiry of the probation period.
b) Terminate Appointment
The Manager recommends the appointment is terminated due to weaknesses in the performance of the candidate which could not be overcome even with additional reviews and a Performance Improvement Plan. The Manager should contact the relevant HR Partner for further advice and guidance on next steps.
The following documents are essential for a Manager when carrying out a probation review:
- Policy is a must-read document as it outlines the procedure and requirements.
- Manager's Guide is an aid to Line Managers that explains the process in more detail. Contains advice and suggestion on next steps.
- Probation Form includes a list of performance categories to be reviewed. The Manager may also add specific skills relevant to the role, as well as training needs etc.
- Performance Improvement Plan is a supporting document allowing the Manager to identify specific areas that require improvement and set a timeline when this improvement needs to be noted.
- Contract and/or Job Specification is a point of reference for duties and responsibilities when reviewing staff member's performance.
- Previous review form is a point of reference for any changes in performance since the last review.