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Manage probation

Probation allows the employer and employee to assess how well a new employee is a fit for the role they have been appointed to and provides opportunity for the manager to:

  • establish clear expectations
  • ensure the employee knows what they are required to do
  • provide constructive feedback to keep the employee on track
  • identify and address performance issues early
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the new employee.

Any probation period should be communicated in recruitment documentation.

Length of probation

If the successful applicant is not already a public service officer and they are appointed to a permanent position, they will usually be subject to a probationary period to assess their performance and conduct.

For most roles a 3 month probation period applies.

A longer probation period can be applied provided it is:

  • agreed in writing prior to appointment
  • reasonable having regard to the nature and circumstances of the employment.

Extend probation

Extensions to probation should generally only occur where:

  • there has not been a reasonable opportunity to assess the employee’s performance e.g. due to an extended period of leave
  • the employee has demonstrated good progress toward performance and conduct expectations, but is not quite at the standard expected and the manager is confident that the employee will achieve the required standard within a short period.

Absence from the role for a secondment or higher duties will generally not be an appropriate reason to extend the probation period.

Performance assessment

Setting expected performance standards and establishing tasks and duties to be performed in the form of a performance agreement needs to start from the employee’s first day on the job.

Regular feedback:

  • enables early identification and addressing of problems
  • maximises the opportunity for employees to ‘self-correct’.

More about performance review and management.

Before you begin any performance management process with an employee considered to be a probationer, check the employment status and seek advice from your local HR team.

Terminate employment

Termination during probation occurs where an employee is assessed as not meeting the performance or conduct requirements. Decisions about termination during probation need to be made in consultation with HR and in accordance with agency policies.

Decisions about whether or not the employee has been successful should not be left until the last few weeks of the probation period.

Where there are performance or conduct issues, the employee must be advised of where their performance is not meeting expectations.Natural justice is provided to the employee through the provision of feedback and the opportunity to respond.

Notifying the employee of the proposed action to terminate employment is appropriate but does not require a formal ‘show cause’ or disciplinary process.

Where a decision is made to terminate employment, written notice of dismissal must be received by the employee before the end of the probation period.

Unfair dismissal

An employee cannot claim unfair dismissal during an initial probationary period unless it is alleged the dismissal is for invalid reasons. Check section 73 of the Industrial Relations Act 1999 (PDF 3.7MB) for a list of invalid reasons. Clear documentation of the discussions held with the employee about unresolved performance issues and the opportunity they were given to respond will help demonstrate there was a valid reason for dismissal.

Legislation

Two different Acts of Parliament apply to probation in the Queensland public service:

  Section 126 of the Public Service Act 2008Section 73 of the Industrial Relations Act 1999
Applies toInitial appointment as an officer

At discretion of CEO

All new employees

Automatic application

When it appliesOnce in public service. Re-deployment, transfer or promotion, both within and across agencies, do not trigger a new probation period.

A person who has been employed other than as an officer (e.g. a temporary or casual employee) can have a probation period under the PSA applied to them on appointment as an officer.

Engagement with each employing agency; e.g. a temporary employee with PSC subsequently obtains temporary employment with DTMR. Probation periods apply to each period of employment.

Engagement with each employing agency; e.g. a temporary employee with PSC subsequently obtains temporary employment with DTMR. Probation periods apply to each period of employment.

Duration3 months3 months unless employee & employer agree (in writing) a shorter period or no period applies
ExtensionCEO can extend, provided extension period is reasonable having regard to the nature and circumstances of the employment.No capacity to extend