Probationary Policy for University Staff

This policy outlines the University’s policy regarding the support, training and assessment of university staff employees during their probationary periods.
Functional Owner

Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources

Executive Sponsor

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration

Policy Contact

Office of Workforce Relations

Policy Summary

This policy outlines the University’s policy regarding the support, training and assessment of university staff employees during their probationary periods.

Who This Policy Applies To

This policy applies to full- or part-time University Staff employees. This policy does not apply to employees hired into temporary employee positions.


The probationary period serves as an extension of the selection process and is also an essential component of new employee onboarding. The purpose of the probationary period is for supervisors to help employees successfully perform the duties and responsibilities of the position and to allow time for the supervisor to verify that the new employee can satisfactorily meet performance expectations before granting ongoing status. The probationary period also provides time for the new employee to experience the University, the department, and the position, and to determine whether the position meets the employee’s expectations. Additionally, this time allows new employees to show that they possess, or are able to acquire, the necessary skills to successfully perform the duties of the position for which they were hired.

Policy Detail

  1. Probationary Periods

    1. New employees serve probationary periods after they are appointed to a University Staff position. An employee does not serve a probationary period when:
      1. Reemployed in a position in the employee’s division after layoff,
      2. Assigned different or additional duties in the current appointment,
      3. Transferring to a different multi-shift position within the same title within the same division, or
      4. The employee’s position is reclassified or reallocated.
    2. During the probationary period, the employee should be evaluated in accordance with the university and the college, school, or division performance management policy. During this time, the supervisor will evaluate the employee’s:
      1. Ability to learn and progress to successfully perform necessary job duties. Other written standards, job requirements, and expectations specific to the employee’s position and/or identified in the employee’s position description
      2. Quality of work
      3. Work habits
      4. Attendance and punctuality
    3. The employee and supervisor are encouraged to communicate frequently during the probationary period.
  2. Supervisor Responsibilities during Probationary Period

    1. During the probationary period, the supervisor has a responsibility to provide the employee with performance expectations, feedback, resources, and support in order to assist the employee in meeting the goals and expectations of the position.
    2. Progress towards these goals should be reviewed during discussions between the supervisor and employee. Managers/supervisors should, at a minimum, conduct a mid-point feedback and coaching conversation approximately midway through a new employee’s probationary period.
  3. Duration

    1. A probationary period not less than six months is required for new University Staff appointments. For select titles, the probationary period may be approved by OHR to be greater than six months in duration. The employee will be notified, in writing prior to hire, of the requirements for a probationary period and its length. Divisions will have the option to waive any portion of the last six months of a probationary period lasting one year or longer.
    2. Multi-shift transfers. Multi-shift employees who transfer between crews or between shifts (e.g., from 3rd shift to 1st shift) within the same title and within the same division shall not be required to serve a probationary period.
  4. Extension of Probationary Period

    A probationary period may be extended only in specific circumstances where there has not been an adequate opportunity to evaluate the employee in significant aspects of job performance. Prior to the probationary period expiration, the division may extend the probationary period by a time increment not to exceed one year. All extensions, except due to absence, must be approved by the Office of Human Resources (OHR) prior to the extension occurring. A probationary period may be extended for any of the following reasons:

    1. Extension due to inability to fully evaluate performance. A probationary period may be extended when the supervisor has not had adequate opportunity to fully assess the employee’s performance or the employee has not had adequate opportunity to demonstrate successful performance (e.g., an employee who displays a substantial change in performance during the probationary period).
    2. Extension due to absence, disability, or light or modified duty.
      1. probationary period may be extended for division-approved absences due to an employee or immediate family member’s medical condition. A probationary period must be extended by the division for absences in excess of 20 work days (160 hours) during the probationary period.
      2. A probationary period may be extended by the division if an employee has received a disability accommodation during the probationary period. The probationary period may be extended in this case in order to allow the accommodation to go into effect. The extension will provide the manager or supervisor the opportunity to review the employee’s performance with the accommodation in place.
      3. A probationary period may be extended in the event that an employee is temporarily assigned to light or modified duty when the modified duties do not constitute a majority of the essential job duties for which the employee was hired.
      4. In the written request for extension due to an approved absence, disability, or light or modified duty, the manager or supervisor shall provide the period of time during which the employee was absent from the workplace or not fully performing the duties of the position, and the proposed new probation end date.
    3. Approval for probationary period extensions other than absence. Probationary period extension requests for reasons other than absence must be submitted to OHR at least two weeks before the probationary period is scheduled to expire. After receiving OHR approval, the division must notify the employee, in writing, of the extension and justification. The employee must be notified in writing before the employee’s probationary period expires.
  5. Failure to Meet Expectations during Probationary Period

    1. If an employee is failing to meet job requirements, performance or behavioral standards during the probationary period, the supervisor must issue a written performance improvement memorandum as early in the probationary period as possible. The memorandum will contain, at a minimum, the following:
      1. The nature of the problem(s) observed, including specific examples where possible.
      2. The steps the employee must take to correct the deficiencies and the timeline for improvement, if applicable.
      3. Note: The employee must be given a reasonable amount of time to demonstrate the employee’s ability to meet job requirements, performance standards, or correct inappropriate behavior.

      4. Notice that the employee’s failure to correct the performance problems will result in termination of employment on or before the end of the probationary period.
    2. If the employee does not achieve sustained satisfactory performance in the time period identified in the performance improvement memorandum, the supervisor may terminate the employment relationship at any time during the probationary period.
    3. Unless employee actions are serious in nature, as identified below, termination cannot occur unless the employee first receives notice and an opportunity to correct the performance deficiencies, as identified above.
    4. Immediate termination without a performance improvement memorandum can occur if the employee’s actions are serious in nature (e.g., employee no call, no show, insubordination, etc.). Division HR offices should be consulted in these circumstances.
  6. Right to Return

    1. University Staff appointed to new positions will not have the right to return to the position they left if they fail the probationary period in the new job. However, if an employee is appointed to a new position within the UW–Madison campus in the same title as the employee’s previous position, he or she will have 30 calendar days from the date of the appointment to return to the previous (or equivalent) position within the division they left. Beyond 30 calendar days from the date of the appointment, but while still serving their probationary period, employees who have left their previous University Staff position for a new University Staff position (including Fixed-term Finite positions) may return to their previous position by mutual agreement between the employee and the Dean or Director (or Designee).
    2. Supervisors should provide employees with an assessment of the employee’s performance prior to the end of the 30 calendar day period. The purpose of this discussion is to enable the employee to make an informed decision as to whether they should remain in the new, or return to their former position.
    3. The 30-day right to return provision does not apply to employees in University Staff Fixed-term Finite appointments.
  7. Determining if the Employee Passes the Probationary Period

    1. Before the end of the probationary period, the supervisor must evaluate the employee’s performance and decide if the employee has successfully completed the probationary period, or has failed to achieve expectations.
    2. If the supervisor fails to notify the employee of an extension in the probationary period and/or fails to complete the final probationary period performance review by the end date of the probationary period, it will be assumed the University Staff employee has passed their probationary period.
  8. Release during Probationary Period

    1. During the probationary period, employees have no guarantee of continued employment. If the University determines at any time during the probationary period that an employee is not suited for the position, that employee may be released prior to the end of the probationary period. The employee must first be informed of performance deficiencies and provided with an opportunity to improve performance, unless the behavior warrants immediate termination (e.g., serious in nature)
    2. An employee who has held a previous position(s) at UW–Madison, within UW System or the State of Wisconsin, and are appointed to a new position at UW–Madison, UW System, or the State of Wisconsin, may be released at any time during the probationary period without rights to return to the previous position (except for the 30 calendar day right of return provision identified above).
    3. The employee shall receive, in writing, the reason(s) for the release during the probationary period and the effective date of the release. Probationary employees are not subject to or protected by just cause or progressive disciplinary steps required for non-probationary employees.
  9. Employees Serving a Probationary Period Beginning Prior to July 1, 2015

      Employees who began but had not yet completed an original, permissive, promotional, manager/supervisor, or career executive probationary period under the classified civil service at UW–Madison before July 1, 2015 shall retain all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges afforded under the relevant policies (e.g. Wis. Stat Ch. 230, ER-MRS 13, ER-MRS 14, ER-MRS 15, ER-MRS 16, ER-MRS 17, and ER-MRS 30) until such time as either permanent status is achieved, or the probationary period is ended.

Supporting Tools

Probation Extension Template Letter

Performance Improvement Memorandum

List of Probationary Periods by Title


Date of Appointment: the date when the employee reports for work.

Light or Modified Duty: when an employee’s doctor or treating specialist has identified work restrictions, the University may offer the employee light or modified duty work. Light or modified duty work is defined as being less physically demanding duties identified until the employee has reached end of healing, or is able to return to their previous position with or without restrictions.

Fixed-term Terminal Appointment: An appointment type limited to two years or less. Employees in a Fixed-term Finite University Staff appointment have no expectation of continued employment or renewal.

Immediate Family Member: includes an employee's spouse, parents and children; an employee's and employee's spouse's immediate family members, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and their spouses; children over the age of 18 and their spouses; and any other relative who resides in the same household as the employee.


Office of Human Resources (OHR)
  • Serves as the campus expert on probationary period policy and consults with colleges/schools/divisions as needed
  • Provides template probationary period templates and other pertinent information
College/School/Division HR
  • Monitors compliance with this policy and supports employee and supervisor needs
  • Consults with OHR as needed
  • Understands the probationary period policy
  • Fully participates in the probationary period policy as outlined in this policy, and/or divisional guidelines
  • Participates in the probationary period in a timely and constructive manner

Link to Current Policy

Links to Related Policies

Performance Management for Managers and Supervisors

New Employee Onboarding

University Staff Grievances Policy

Keywordsprobation, duration, period, extension, expectations, pass, release, probationary policy for university staff   Doc ID53158
OwnerJonathan D.GroupHR Policies
Created2015-06-24 11:56:54Updated2020-03-02 15:36:27
SitesHR Policies
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