CCMA Hearings, 10 Things To Help You Prepare

While helping our clients with CCMA hearings (or avoiding them completely) is an area we have great success with, it is advisable to have some knowledge of the rules and processes of this often misunderstood body. For example, people are often surprised that:

  1. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is an independent dispute resolution body with a primary remit to conciliate or arbitrate workplace disputes. Other than dispute resolution, its functions include establishing workplace forums, and publishing information and statistics about its activities.
  2. The CCMA replaced forums like Conciliation Boards and the Industrial Court which worked on a more adversarial model and only settled around 20% of disputes. By comparison the CCMA claims a “settlement rate” of 70% and greater.
  3. The CCMA receives tens of thousands of referrals each year from employees claiming various types of unfair treatment from employers, especially dismissals. This results in an average of 500 hearings every day.
  4. You should never ignore a notice of a CCMA hearing. Default judgements are made regularly against non-attendees – around 10% of all cases referred to the CCMA. This leaves you having to apply for a Rescission.
  5. Although we have been enormously successful in ensuring that Rescission Applications are quickly and inexpensively handled, the best course is to avoid negative awards and be present at every single meeting at the CCMA or a Bargaining Council.
  6. Anyone who wishes to use the CCMA to enforce their employee rights must have a working knowledge of the CCMA rules and regulations. Claiming ignorance of procedures as a lay person is not an acceptable excuse.
  7. Employers cannot refer disputes to the CCMA or a Bargaining Council in their own interests. Employer rights are limited to taking internal disciplinary action and, if necessary dismissing the employee.
  8. Although the CCMA is not a court, it has power in law to enforce its rules in conciliations and arbitrations. Where settlement is not achieved at the conciliation stage, the CCMA can facilitate arbitration.
  9. Approaching the CCMA to have a dispute heard based on a person’s interest (e.g. a salary increase) in something is not permitted. However, we often find the CCMA erroneously allows disputes of interest to go on to arbitration. Although the arbitrator would normally dismiss such a matter, the costs of preparation can be huge. Consequently, arbitration should be avoided by making special application to the CCMA beforehand.
  10. CCMA arbitrations should be treated seriously, just like a court case. Preparations must be made carefully and witnesses must be present at the hearing, on the understanding that the case will be heard only once and findings delivered without appeal.

Beware CCMA Arbitrations Wherever Possible

We spend many hours preparing for Arbitrations, to avoid any room for error. Our approach is to ensure even the most negative Arbitrator can assess our client’s position correctly. If, during our preparations, we uncover technical legal points which can be exploited in our client’s favour we determine to use them for maximum benefit.

If you have received notice of a CCMA hearing or want to refer a matter for conciliation, be sure to contact us first. Our expert preparation and long experience in supporting clients are your best way to avoid hassle and excessive costs at the CCMA.