The CCMA – How does it work?

The CCMA – How does it work?
We explain the roles and responsibilities of the CCMA

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration is an independent dispute resolution body. We look at the purpose of the CCMA and what services it offers.

Khayakazi Makunga
Khayakazi Makunga - Legal Advisor
7 December 2020 | 5 minute read
December Newsletter Article Banners2

Most South Africans have heard of the CCMA (“The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration”). We know that it has something to do with disputes between employees and employers. But do you know how to use the CCMA or how to bring a claim to it? This article aims to demystify the process of bringing a claim to the CCMA.  

Before going to the CCMA

Before involving the CCMA in your dispute with your employer, you should first try to resolve the issue using the company's internal procedures, such as lodging a grievance with the Human Resources Department. In fact, the Labour Relations Act (“the  Act”), encourages parties in a dispute to first attempt to settle it by use of internal mechanisms. The CCMA will look to see if you tried to resolve the dispute internally before approaching them.

Can all work-related disputes be referred to the CCMA?

You can bring most work-related disputes to the CCMA, such as:

However, not all workplace disputes can be referred to the CCMAIn terms of the Act, the CCMA may not adjudicate the following disputes: 

Are there time limits for lodging your dispute at the CCMA?

There are strict periods within which one must lodge a dispute at the CCMA.  This period varies depending on the type of dispute involved.

  • You must refer an unfair dismissal to the CCMA within 30 days from the date of the dismissal.
  • You must refer an unfair labour practice to the CCMA within 90 days from the date of the dispute.
  • You must refer a case of unfair discrimination to the CCMA within 6 months from the date of the dispute or occurrence.

NOTE:  When counting the periods referred to above, you must include weekends and public holidays.

Should you fail to lodge the dispute within the required period, you can apply for acceptance of the late filing by way of a Condonation application.  That is, you can explain to the Commissioner in writing why the application was late.  If he is satisfied with your reason, he will accept the application.

The process of lodging a dispute at the CCMA is reasonably straightforward. You complete Form 7.11, and email it, fax it, hand-deliver it, or post it (registered mail) to your employer. Once you have delivered Form 7.11 to your employer, you will deliver the completed form and proof of delivery to the CCMA by email, fax, or hand (if allowed, due to COVID-19). The CCMA will then contact you and your employer to inform you of the date, time and venue of the first hearing at the CCMA.

Proceedings at the CCMA

There are 2 distinct stages to the process of dispute resolution at the CCMA.  

Stage 1 - Conciliation

During the conciliation stage, the Commissioner facilitates a negotiation between the parties to try to resolve the dispute. The Commissioner does not have the power to decide which party wins the case. The Commissioner can only make suggestions and assist the parties to arrive at a settlement.

Attorneys may not represent parties at the conciliation. The parties may, however, be represented by a trade union official or an official from an employers' organisation.

If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute, the Commissioner issues a "certificate of no-outcome".  The parties may then refer the case to Arbitration (stage two).

If the dispute concerns an unfair dismissal of an employee on probation, then a so-called "con-arb" will be held.  This means that the Commissioner will conduct the Conciliation and the Arbitration on the same day.

Stage 2 - Arbitration

To refer the case for Arbitration, you must complete Form 7.13, within 90 days of the issue of the "certificate of no-outcome". In terms of CCMA rule 21, the CCMA must give both parties at least 21 days' notice, in writing, of an arbitration hearing, unless the parties agree to a shorter period. Written notice can include communication by email.

The procedure at the Arbitration hearing is similar to a trial in a civil court, although less formal. Under certain circumstances, parties may be represented by attorneys and advocates.  The phases in the proceedings are as follows:

  • Each party makes a short opening statement explaining their case.
  • Each party gives evidence and calls their witnesses to testify.
  • Each party may cross-examine the other party and their witnesses.
  • After all the evidence has been given, each party makes a short closing statement.
  • The Commissioner then makes his ruling.

He has up to 14 days within which to make his decision, which he will deliver in writing. The Commissioner can award monetary compensation or reinstatement.

You must attend the arbitration hearing that the CCMA schedules to deal with your case. Failure to attend the hearing might lead to the Commissioner dismissing the case, which means the CCMA will no longer help you.

We hope you have enjoyed this article and gained some valuable insight into the workings of the CCMA. We invite you to contact your Legal and Tax Advisor should you have any questions whatsoever about the CCMA or labour lawmatters in general.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Legal&Tax is your companion in Labour Law. Our experts can help advise you on how best to deal with labour matters and working through the CCMA process. Contact us for more information.

Recommended articles
Legal You November 2021 Main banner3 newsletter

Legal&You Newsletter November 2021

As we enter 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), we wanted to highlight the increase in GBV that has occurred under COVID-19 and lockdown conditions. Our article sheds light on steps we can take to bring this plight to an end.
Article Themes website November 20214 funeralfraud

A rise in funeral insurance fraud due to the COVID-19 pandemic

You could take a financial hit if your insurance company raises your premium levels to counteract the cost of fraudulent claims.
Article Themes website November 20213 diabetes

Diabetes Awareness – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Many people do not know that they are diabetic until long-term damage is done by the disease. In this article, we help you identify some of the signs and symptoms and advise you on how to treat diabetes.
View our other information hubs