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Probation and confirmation of appointment for academic staff

Policy information | Policy summary | Purpose | Applicable to | Not applicable to | Policy details | Related links |
Appendix A: Composition of the Committee of Review | Appendix B: Evidence presented to the Committee of Review |
Roles and responsibilities | Academic probation process

Policy information

Approved by Council Date September 2013
Policy owner Jointly by: Compensation & Benefits and HR Client Services
Reviewed by HRMAG, VCMAG, UHRC, IF, AU, Senate (view acronym list)
Final delegated authority Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic
Enquiries Director: Compensation and Benefits (view contacts)
Director: HR Client Services (view contacts)

Policy summary

  1. Length of the probationary period is normally 3 years but may be longer or shorter if special circumstances exist. (Read more)
  2. A reporting officer is appointed to manage the staff member's performance by way of a probation plan. (Read more)
  3. An interim performance report is submitted half way through the probationary period. (Read more)
  4. A final performance report is submitted at the end of the probationary period. (Read more)
  5. Both the interim and final performance reports are approved at executive level. (Read more)
  6. At the end of the probationary period, three outcomes are possible: (Read more)
    • Confirmation of appointment
    • Extension of probationary period
    • Termination of appointment
  7. In the case of a termination a Committee of Review will hear the evidence and make a final decision. (Read more)

Purpose

The purpose of the probationary period is to test the presumption of the appointment, namely, that there is a basis for a long term employment relationship between the member of staff and the University. It is to give the new academic the opportunity of a planned induction, training and appropriate support to gain experience and competence in teaching, research and administration so as to ensure a smooth transition from being a new staff member to becoming an established member of the University, and to afford a period of adjustment for an established academic to become acquainted with the University and its academic and governance systems, and structures.

The aim of this policy is to ensure fairness; no staff member should be disadvantaged, either through having his or her probation extended or through dismissal, should the University fail substantially to implement these procedures. The timelines incorporated in the policy guarantee practicability and sufficient flexibility. However if the procedures cannot be implemented because of lack of compliance by the staff member then any reasonable sanction may be imposed by the University on the member concerned.

Applicable to

This policy applies to all newly appointed permanent staff on academic conditions of service (including standard academic staff, academic teaching staff, and clinical academic staff).

The probationary period may be reduced or waived if the staff member has undertaken a successful probationary period at another institution which the University believes is equivalent, or has previously been employed at UCT in a similar capacity.

An academic member of staff appointed on a T2 contract (>2 years and < 5 years) will be required to serve probation if it is specified in his or her employment contract.

Not applicable to

  • PASS staff
  • Research staff
  • Ad Hoc or paid-on-claim staff
  • T1 contracts
  • T2 contracts where probation is not specified in the employment contract

Policy details

  1. Length of the probationary period is normally 3 years but may be longer or shorter if special circumstances exist.
    1. 1.1. Normal period

      The normal period of probation is three years.

      In the case of a member of staff on a T2 contract being required to serve probation, the period of probation and the timing of the assessments must be specified in the employment contract.

    2. 1.2. Shorter or longer period, and waiver of period

      A shorter or longer period of probation can exceptionally be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) responsible for academic matters on the recommendation of the selection committee. If approved, it must be documented in the letter of appointment.

    3. 1.3. Use of previous service

      Previous full-time service at UCT may be taken into account to satisfy part of the probationary service requirement, provided that:

      1. The staff member must serve at least 12 months of the probationary period.
      2. Previous service recognized towards the probationary period must have been full-time and continuous, have occurred immediately prior to the appointment, and involved a similar range of duties.
    4. 1.4. Accelerated confirmation

      At the time of, or at any point following the interim probationary report, a head of department may make a case for early confirmation of the staff member concerned. The proposal must be based on performance and is subject to support by the Dean and approval by the Vice-Chancellor or two DVCs (one of which is the DVC responsible for academic staff matters).

    5. 1.5. Extended period of probation

      A probationary period may be extended after due process; see detail below.

  2. A reporting officer is appointed to manage the staff member's performance by way of a probation plan.
    1. 2.1. The Reporting Officer must be identified and will be responsible for establishing a probation plan and reviewing the staff member's progress on a regular basis. The Reporting Officer is:

      1. The Head of Department or Director of the GSB (or where the Dean authorises this, the Dean's nominee) in respect of members of a department;
      2. The Dean of the faculty or CHED, in respect of a Head of Department;
    2. 2.2. The staff member must comply in a timely fashion with all reporting requirements of the process. Failure to comply may lead to disciplinary action and, in extreme cases, can itself constitute reason for failing to confirm the appointment.

    3. 2.3. The Reporting Officer must meet the new staff member, preferably within the first month of employment, to discuss and agree a probation plan which outlines individual goals and objectives and identifies developmental needs in line with the agreed expected performance for academic staff. The overall workload of staff on probation should be determined so that the targets agreed in the probation plan are achievable.

    4. 2.4. The probation plan should include a recommendation for participation on NAPP (New Academic Practitioners' Programme) and the ERP (Emerging Researcher Programme), where appropriate.

    5. 2.5. The Reporting Officer should mentor the new staff member or appoint a person to mentor the new staff member in order to gain an understanding of the university structure and systems, and to give advice and guidance on teaching and research practices.

    6. 2.6. Performance against the objectives should be reviewed formally every year with a one on one discussion between the individual and the Reporting Officer. If a staff member's conduct or performance gives cause for concern, the Reporting Officer must address this as soon as possible with the individual so that he or she is aware of the nature of the concern and the extent of the shortfall against the objectives and agreed expected performance for academic staff. Where performance is considered to be below the standard expected, the Reporting Officer must manage this through a written development plan.

    7. 2.7. As part of the interim and final reporting process the staff member must, on request, submit a self-performance review report which will form part of the report related to the agreed plan.

  3. An interim performance report is submitted half way through the probationary period.
    1. 3.1. The Reporting Officer must submit a written interim performance report (HR176), half way through the probationary period (unless there are acceptable reasons for a delay), and makes one of the following findings and recommendations:

      1. Performance against the probation plan is at or above the expected level and the probationary period should continue; or
      2. In exceptional circumstances, performance against the probation plan is above the expected level and the appointment should be confirmed; or
      3. Performance against the probation plan is not yet at the expected level and the probationary period should continue subject to a development plan; or
      4. Performance against the probation plan is not at the expected level, and continuation of the probationary period is unlikely to result in the staff member achieving this, and the appointment should be terminated.
    2. 3.2. If the interim performance report has not been signed off by the relevant delegated authorities within 20 months of the start date, the late submission needs to be escalated to the Dean and/or the Deputy Vice-Chancellor by the HR Department.

    3. 3.3. The Reporting Officer sends a copy of the interim performance report to the staff member who may submit a response in writing for inclusion with the report.

  4. A final performance report is submitted at the end of the probationary period.
    1. 4.1. At least two months and up to six months before the end of the probationary period the Reporting Officer must submit a final performance report (HR176) and make one of the following findings and recommendations:

      1. The conditions of the appointment have been met and the appointment should be confirmed; or
      2. The conditions of the appointment have not been met and the probationary period should be extended to give further time for the staff member to meet them; or
      3. The conditions of the appointment have not been met and an extension (or further extension) of probation is unlikely to result in the staff member meeting the objectives; and the appointment should be terminated.
    2. 4.2. The Reporting Officer sends a copy of the final performance report to the staff member who may submit a response in writing for inclusion with the report.

  5. The interim and final performance reports are approved at executive level.
    1. 5.1. The Reporting Officer sends the performance report plus response from the staff member (if submitted) via the Dean for comment, to the DVC responsible for academic staff matters.

    2. 5.2. The Vice-Chancellor or two DVCs (one of which is the DVC responsible for academic staff matters) considers the interim or final performance report and,

      Either decides on the outcome in the cases of a recommendation for,

      1. continuation of the probationary period; or
      2. confirmation of the appointment; or
      3. extension of the probationary period.

      Or refers it to a Committee of Review, in the case of a recommendation for termination of the appointment. The Committee of Review must make a final decision on the outcome.

    3. 5.3. HR must ensure that the relevant Dean and the Reporting Officer are notified of the decision, who in turn must notify the staff member.

  6. At the end of the probationary period, three outcomes of probation are possible:
    1. 6.1. Confirmation of appointment

      If the outcome is a confirmation of the appointment a letter of confirmation is drawn up by HR and sent to the staff member by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for academic affairs. The Reporting Officer meets with the staff member and determines the workload and objectives for the next period of assessment. At this stage, or before this stage, the staff member should have a full teaching and administrative load as required by the position, and be assessed against the full requirements of the academic position at the agreed expected level of performance.

    2. 6.2. Extension of the probationary period

      If the outcome is to extend the probationary period, a new probation plan must be determined following discussion between the Reporting Officer and the staff member. A copy must be sent to the Dean and DVC responsible for academic staffing matters. The staff member may request the formation of a Committee of Review in accordance with the process outlined in section 7 below, which will then have the power to decide on any one of the outcomes outlined in 5.2. above.

    3. 6.3. Termination of appointment

      If the outcome is that the staff member has failed to meet the standards expected during probation, a statement identifying the grounds for termination of the appointment must be sent to the staff member by the Dean of the Faculty concerned. At this stage a Committee of Review will be established. The function of the Committee of Review is to hear the Reporting Officer and the staff member and to make a decision on whether the appointment be terminated or not.

  7. In the case of a termination a Committee of Review will hear the evidence and make a final decision.

    The Committee of Review process will be as follows:

    1. 7.1. The Committee of Review will be established in accordance with the agreed procedures. See Appendix A: Composition of Committee of Review.

    2. 7.2. The Vice-Chancellor nominates the Chair of the Committee of Review.

    3. 7.3. The Executive Director: HR or nominee services the Committee of Review process.

    4. 7.4. The Executive Director: HR or nominee informs the staff member in writing of -

      1. the opportunity to make a written submission to the Committee;
      2. the right to appear before the Committee to state a case and the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or any member of the University who can speak on the staff member's behalf;
      3. the right to request up to two other staff members to give input to the Committee, either in writing or orally.
    5. 7.5. All the necessary documentary evidence is compiled. See Appendix B: Evidence to be presented to the Committee of Review.

    6. 7.6. The Executive Director: HR or nominee provides the staff member with copies of all documentation before the Committee of Review. This must be done to give the staff member reasonable time to respond to the evidence.

    7. 7.7. The Committee of Review meets to consider all submitted evidence and documentation, must hear the staff member if he/she wishes to be heard and must hear the Reporting Officer. The quorum for the Committee of Review is three members.

    8. 7.8. The Committee of Review makes a final decision (in accordance with 6.1 - 6.3 above) and reports this to the Vice-Chancellor. The Executive Director: HR must convey the decision to the staff member in writing.

    9. 7.9. The Committee of Review must specify if the termination is with or without notice and, if the former, the period of notice. Failing this decision, the notice stipulated in the employment contract will apply.

    10. 7.10. At any time after the final decision is made by the Committee of Review, the Vice-Chancellor may suspend the staff member from his/her duties on full pay if in his judgement this is justified, and provided the staff member has been given an opportunity to make representations on the matter.

    Opportunity to appeal

    1. 7.11. The decision made by Committee of Review is final and there is no opportunity for the staff member to appeal.

Related links

Appendix A: Composition of the Committee of Review

(Extracted from the Committee of Review Terms of Reference)

A Committee of Review will ordinarily be constituted as follows, but deviations from this may occur in circumstances where this is justified:

  • A member of the academic staff appointed by the Vice-Chancellor to Chair the committee (this could be the Vice-Chancellor, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, a dean from another faculty, or a senior member of the professoriate);
  • The Dean or Deputy Dean of the faculty concerned or the Director of the GSB (but not the Reporting Officer, and not the Dean or Director of the GSB where they are the Reporting Officer);
  • A member of academic staff with a qualification in law, appointed by the Vice-Chancellor;
  • One or two persons chosen by the Vice-Chancellor from the Senate panel of 12;
    (Note: a panel of 12 academic staff must be selected every 4 years by Senate to serve on Committees of Review and Inquiry. One third of the panel must be of professorial rank, and two thirds of the panel must be below that rank at the time of appointment.)
  • One UCT staff member with relevant subject matter knowledge appointed by the Chair of the Committee of Review.

Appendix B: Evidence presented to the Committee of Review

(Extracted from the Committee of Review Terms of Reference)

The evidence to be presented to the Committee of Review generally includes the following:

  • A full curriculum vitae of the staff member and a report on activities since appointment, both supplied by the staff member;
  • All reports (interim and where applicable, final) submitted by the Reporting Officer to date;
  • Any written evidence from persons nominated by the Reporting Officer, the staff member on probation, or the Committee of Review;
  • Oral evidence from persons requested to be present at the request of the staff member on probation or the Reporting Officer;
  • Any other information required by the Committee of Review;
  • A medical report if relevant.
  • A report detailing the process that has been followed should be prepared and submitted by HR.

Roles and responsibilities

Role Responsibilities
Appointments Office
  • Draws up appointment letter
  • Captures initial details of probation on SAP
HR Practitioner
  • Requests interim and final performance reports
  • Runs SAP report and updates system
  • Submits reports to Dean for comment and DVC for approval
  • Circulates documents when necessary and files reports at Registry
  • Prepares all letters relating to probation and confirmation of appointment
Executive Director: HR (EDHR) or nominee
  • Services Committee of Review process and provides all documents to parties involved
Staff member
  • Fulfils duties and endeavours to meet goals in probation plan
  • Provides CV and self performance review report to Reporting Officer
  • Responds in writing to probation reports, if desired
  • Participates in Committee of Review process if necessary
Reporting Officer
  • Develops probation plan with staff member
  • Monitors progress, completes probation review form and submits to Dean via HR Practitioner
  • Liaises with HR Practitioner on all matters
  • Provides feedback and confirmation letter to staff member
  • Participates in Committee of Review process if necessary
Dean
  • Reads and comments on full probation review
  • Notes outcome and reads DVC comments
  • Participates in Committee of Review process if necessary
VC or DVC
  • Approves full probation review and adds comments
  • Initiates Committee of Review process if necessary
  • Nominates Chair of Committee of Review
  • Appoints other members of Committee of Review
Committee of Review
  • Hears staff member and Reporting Officer in the case of a termination recommendation, or on a staff member's request
  • Makes final outcome decision

Academic probation process

View the academic probation process (PDF).

Page last updated: 15 September 2017