Policy University Management Academic Staff Probation Procedure

Academic Staff Probation Procedure

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To outline the procedure for managing probation at James Cook University.


This Procedure applies to all newly appointed continuing and fixed-term academic staff at James Cook University (‘JCU’, ‘we’ or ‘our’) who are subject to a probation in accordance with the James Cook University Enterprise Agreement (Enterprise Agreement) and the Staff Member's contract of employment.

This Procedure does not apply to: (i) casual staff; (ii) fixed-term appointments of less than three months; and (iii) where a continuing Staff Member is seconded to another position in the University, and they have already completed their initial probation.


For a comprehensive list of definitions, please refer to the Human Resources Policy Glossary.


This Procedure stipulates the requirements for undertaking probation as part of commencement to an Academic role at JCU. The probationary period assists in determining whether there is an appropriate match between the individual and the role specifically, and at JCU broadly.

Successful probation at JCU requires documented evidence that a staff member can successfully undertake the responsibilities and perform at expected standards as required of a position.


1. Period of Probation

1.1 Academic Staff are appointed subject to a probationary period as detailed in the terms and conditions of the contract of employment and as aligned with the Enterprise Agreement.

1.2 Casual Staff who are converted to Fixed-term or Continuing appointments under the Enterprise Agreement and/or relevant legislation, may have their probationary period shortened or waived with the approval of the relevant Deputy Vice Chancellor.

1.3 During the probation period the Staff Member’s Supervisor will provide the following:

a. A Probation Plan prepared at the start of employment;

b. Interim Review/s, as required;

c. Final Probation Review conducted before the end of the probationary period.

2. Effect of Leave

2.1 Periods of approved unpaid leave (such as leave without pay, or unpaid parental leave), taken during the probationary period do not count as service for the purposes of probation and will result in an adjustment to the probation date.

3. Effect of Academic Promotion

3.1 Where an academic Staff Member employed on a continuing contract successfully applies for academic promotion during their probationary period, their appointment to continuing status will be considered confirmed, and the probationary period will cease at the date of promotion.

3.2 The Staff Member will be notified of the confirmation in writing by Human Resources.

4. Subsequent Probationary Periods

4.1 Staff entering a new or subsequent fixed term employment contract are not required to serve an additional probationary period provided that;

a. there has not been a break in service between the immediately preceding contract of employment and the new contract;

b. a probation period in a preceding contract of employment has already been served; and

c. the duties under the immediately preceding contract of employment are not substantially different.

4.2 Where a Staff Member resigns from their current position and is appointed to a substantively different position, a period of probation may apply. This will be determined by the Head of Work Area in conjunction with Human Resources.

5. During the Probation Period

5.1 At the commencement of employment, an initial meeting will be convened between the Staff Member and Supervisor to discuss the responsibilities and expected standards of demonstrable performance and achievement during the probationary period.

5.2 The duties are to be appropriate to the Academic Duty Description (ADD), Academic Work Profile, and Classification Standards for Academic Staff, and supported with the application of the Relative Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) principles.

5.3 The outcome of the discussion will be documented in the Academic Probation Plan template.

5.4 During the probationary period the Supervisor will work with the Staff Member to ensure:

a. mutual understanding of JCU’s Academic Performance and Development Framework in relation to the ADD defining the role, and the Classification Standards for Academic Staff;

b. JCU’s Values and the Code of Conduct are demonstrably upheld;

c. completion of JCU’s mandatory suite of training as is relevant and applicable (including, and not limited to, for instance: JCU’s Respect Now, Always training and any relevant Work Health and Safety training);

d. regular feedback is provided regarding the responsibilities and expected standards of demonstrable performance and achievement during the probationary period including the Staff Member’s capacity, productivity, and contributions toward Probation Plan Objectives to date.

6. Interim Reviews

6.1 The purpose of interim review meetings is to;

a. provide an opportunity for open and transparent conversations and for either party to raise any concerns in relation to the role, performance, or behaviour;

b. allow for requisite support and collaboration to best position Academic Staff to successfully achieve Probation Plan Objectives; and

c. ensure the allocation of academic workload activities is appropriate, and the types of academic work are clearly understood, including and not limited to:

  • Learning and Teaching related duties.
  • Research/Scholarship measures (e.g., research outputs);
  • Leadership and Service activities;
  • Engagement activities.

6.2 Where performance concerns are identified;

a. they should be raised as soon as possible, and interim reviews may take place more regularly;

b. the Supervisor should contact the HR Business Partnering Team for advice and support;

c. a clear statement of the issues and required improvements will be provided to and discussed with the Staff Member;

d. consideration must be given to implementing appropriate support measures, including, and not limited to, structured training and development, mentoring, and coaching;

e. the Staff Member will have an opportunity to respond to the Supervisor regarding the issues raised;

f. the standards of performance will be monitored, ensuring the ROPE principles are applied to enable consideration of capacity, productivity, and contribution in the context of opportunity and experience.

7. Supervisor’s Responsibilities during the Probationary Period

7.1 The supervisor is responsible for:

a. Organising an initial meeting at the outset/commencement of employment to discuss and document a Probation Plan;

b. Scheduling interim review meetings as required and ensuring open and transparent communications;

c. Facilitating and encouraging ongoing regular discussions with Staff regarding expected standards of performance and achievement;

d. Mentoring, constructive guidance, feedback, and support;

e. Enabling other appropriate mentoring relationships as applicable (and both as mentor and mentee);

f. Maintaining written artefacts evidencing discussions, meetings, agreements, contributions, productivity, etc. as is relevant and applicable;

g. Engaging in discussions related to expected performance and achievement to ensure Academic Staff success by taking requisite steps/corrective action(s) as necessary; and

h. Conducting a Final Probation Review as below.

7.2 Staff members will be confirmed unless Human Resources are advised by the Supervisor otherwise, prior to completion of the Probation period.

8. Staff Responsibilities during the Probationary Period

8.1 The Staff Member is responsible for:

a. Actively participating in the probationary process;

b. Communicating openly and transparently and collating evidence demonstrating performance and achievement throughout the probationary period where and as appropriate;

c. Clarifying expectations in respect of performance and achievement;

d. Proactively seeking early guidance, support and opportunities from the Supervisor and other senior academics and disciplinary leaders.

9. Outcome of Probation - Recommendation for Confirmation of Employment

9.1 Supervisors should meet with Staff at least six weeks prior to the end of their six-month probation period (fixed-term contracts) and eight weeks prior to the end of their three-year probation period to undertake a Final Probation Review.

9.2 The Final Probation Review should refer to JCU’s Academic Performance and Development Framework and the Classification Standards for Academic Staff to demonstrably show that the Staff Member has successfully met the standards of performance and achievement documented in the Probation Plan.

9.3 The Final Probation Review will be completed and remitted for endorsement by the appropriate delegate;

9.4 A copy of the Final Probation Review will be provided to the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) for approval, and the Staff Member will be notified of the approval in writing by Human Resources and their employment will be confirmed;

9.5 Once employment is confirmed, JCU will continue to support the Staff Member’s performance and their development through creating a Performance and Development Plan (PDP) and ongoing performance and development discussions.

10. Outcome of Probation - Recommendation for Termination of Employment

10.1 If after following the steps outlined in Section 6.2 performance concerns continue, the Supervisor may progress to a Final Probation Review recommending termination of employment.

10.2 The Staff Member should have the opportunity to provide a response to this recommendation for termination of employment.

10.3 The Supervisor will consider the Staff Member’s response in determining the final recommendation.

10.4 The recommendation for termination of employment must be supported by the Work Unit and/or Divisional Head.  The Deputy Vice Chancellor and the Director, Human Resources will then make a final assessment on whether to approve the recommendation.

10.5 If the recommendation to terminate is supported, the Staff Member will be notified in writing of the decision to terminate their employment and notice paid in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement.

10.6 If the recommendation for termination of employment is not supported, a letter confirming their employment will be provided to the Staff Member stipulating that they comply with a formal Performance Improvement Plan to be managed under the Managing underperformance clause within the Enterprise Agreement.

Related policy instruments

Performance, Development and Recognition Policy

Recruitment, Selection and Appointment Policy

Related documents and legislation

James Cook University Enterprise Agreement

Relative Opportunity and Performance Evidence Guidelines (ROPE)

Human Resources Employment Lifecycle Forms


NOTE:  Printed copies of this procedure are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy DomainUniversity Management

Policy Sub-domain

Human Resources

Policy Custodian

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources

Approval Authority

Vice Chancellor

Date for next Major Review


Revision History


Approval date

Implementation date



NANA22/11/2023Administrative amendment to update reference to JCU Enterprise Agreement to current version.Policy Officer




Procedure established to provide direction for managing probation periods for academic staff.

Organisational Development Specialist


commencement, probation, performance, development, Enterprise Agreement

Contact person

Manager, Culture and Capability