Five points for probationers

Getting through probation can be daunting for new staff at Queen’s. Here are some advice for dealing with the challenges of the probation process:

Check the criteria discussed in probation meetings against the criteria given to you by HR

You should have received detailed criteria in the paperwork sent to you when taking up employment. Check that these correspond to those you receive from your mentor and probation committee. It is important that if you find any inconsistencies between those criteria and the ones given to you by your mentor or probation committee you raise this issue formally—preferably in writing.

Ask for clear and precise criteria for passing probation

In each of the meetings you hold you should receive clear instructions about what you need to achieve to be confirmed in post in the time left in your probation period. These instructions should specify the expectations from you in relation to research, teaching, applying for grants and admin roles.

In general, your unit should create the conditions that would help you to pass probation. Newly appointed academic staff should normally be afforded some leniency in relation to administrative and teaching duties during this period.

Ask for everything in writing

You should receive a written summary of every probation committee meeting within a reasonable period. If this is not sent to you within several weeks of the meeting, you should request a summary from the committee chair. The summary of the meeting should include a detailed specification of the criteria for passing probation given to you verbally during the meeting. If the meeting note does not reflect the substance of the meeting, or omits some aspect important to your progress, return it with a request for revision.

Create your own paper trail

It is important that you maintain careful records of your progress, including copies of any communications relevant to your terms and conditions of employment and your progress toward confirmation in post.

For this purpose you should write your own summary of the understandings and guidance you received during probation meetings and forward this as an email to your mentor and members of the probation committee. The email should include a sentence stating that unless any corrections are sent to you in a return email, the information included in your email should be regarded as accurately representing the record of the meeting.

This may feel like an awkward procedure. As university management structures change, however, the people who will be considering your confirmation in post at the end of your probation period may not be the same people currently serving on your probation committee. It is essential that you have everything in writing to ensure that the instructions you get and the criteria you are assessed against are consistent throughout your probation period.

Let UCU know if anything goes astray

Your Union has experience in dealing with probation-related issues across the university, and can offer advice and guidance when you encounter difficulties in progressing through probation. You are entitled to be accompanied by a representative of the UCU to your probation committee meetings, and to appeal against unfair attempts to extend your probation or deny your confirmation in post.

Finally, please be sure to contact us and consult with us if any problems arise at any point during your term of probation. To contact UCU please write to uculocalissues@gmail.com or ucu-officers@qub.ac.uk.