CCMA: a nasty four-letter word for business owners

CCMA proceedings are not easy; the process isn’t always clear and takes up both time and other resources. Let Pastel’s LegalWrite team guide you through the process.

The complex myriad of South African labour legislation, regulation and best practice create that uneasy feeling of walking a tightrope through a minefield. However, managing labour issues is a reality faced by every business owner who knows that falling off the tightrope could result in CCMA proceedings.

The CCMA process is a complicated one but let us simplify it for you.

What is the CCMA
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is an independent body that helps to resolve disputes and offers advice and training on labour relations.

What kind of disputes does the CCMA deal with?
Disputes between employer and employee over dismissals, wages and working conditions, workplace changes or discrimination may be referred to the CCMA. However, it is important to note that under certain circumstances, there are cases that cannot be referred to the CCMA.

11 steps to easy CCMA dispute management

Step 1:
There are strict time periods within which a dispute must be referred to the CCMA. These vary from 30 days to six months, depending on the matter.

Step 2:
To lodge a dispute, a CCMA case referral form must be completed. These forms are available from the CCMA offices, Department of Labour and the CCMA website (

Step 3:
The party lodging the complaint must ensure that the other party receives a copy of the CCMA referral form and must be able to prove that a copy was sent, regardless of whether it was delivered by hand or sent via fax, registered mail or courier.

Step 4:
The referral form must be sent to the CCMA by hand, fax or post. Proof that the other party has received notification of the complaint must accompany the form.

Step 5:
The CCMA will inform both parties of the date, time and venue for the first hearing.

Step 6:
The first meeting is called conciliation and its purpose is to reach an agreement acceptable to both parties. Legal representation is not allowed.

Step 7:
If no agreement is reached, the commissioner will issue a certificate to that effect. Depending on the nature of the dispute, the case may be referred to the CCMA for arbitration or the Labour Court.

Step 8:
In order to move into arbitration, a ‘request for arbitration’ form must be completed and a copy must be sent to the other party and the CCMA. Arbitration should be applied for within 90 days from the date on which the Commissioner issued the certificate stating that no agreement was reached at conciliation.

Step 9:
Arbitration is a more formal process and evidence, including witnesses and documents may be necessary to prove one’s case. Parties may cross-examine each other. Legal representation will only be allowed if the Commissioner and all other parties agree. The commissioner will make a final and binding decision within 14 days.

Step 10:
If either of the parties is not satisfied with the outcome of arbitration, they may apply to the Labour Court within six weeks to have the judgement set aside. The Labour Court may delay the enforcement of the CCMA award until it has made its decision.

Step 11:
If either party does not comply with the arbitration award, the case could be elevated to the Labour Court.

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LegalWrite has been prepared and developed by Softline Pastel in conjunction with Belinda Hollander Attorneys.