What is the CCMA and what does it do?

A letter from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is the last thing any business owner wants to get. But what exactly is the CCMA, how does it operate and how can you avoid ever having to see the inside of their building?

Aimed at promoting fair practices in the work environment, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is an independent authority (meaning it has no links to a particular political party, business or trade union) that resolves labour disputes, and provides advice and training on labour relations.

The CCMA has offices all over the country and it's main goal is to protect the rights of all parties involved in a labour dispute, so every person gets a "fair shake".

Specific functions of the CCMA

When it comes to the objective resolution of an employee/employer dispute, the CCMA is mandated to:

  • Try to resolve disputes through conciliation (finding a compromise between the two parties) or arbitration (acting as the objective third party to resolve the dispute)
  • Help in forming workplace forums
  • Publish information on its activities and guidelines for dispute resolutions
  • Advise on getting legal advice
  • Determine dispute resolution fees, if applicable
  • Make rules to regulate it's own procedures, processes, documentation, calculate costs and then publish these rules in the Government Gazette

Advice and training

Despite the perception that any dealings you have with CCMA is about paying out a huge amount of money to a disgruntled employee, the body also provides advice and training to employer and employee stakeholders on:

  • Forming collective bargaining bodies
  • Forming and managing workplace forums
  • Preventing and resolving disputes and grievances
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Workplace restructuring
  • Affirmative action and equal opportunity programmes
  • Preventing sexual harassment

It may be a good idea to take advantage of these training programmes to avoid being on the wrong side of a labour dispute.

How does the CCMA resolve disputes?

  1. Once a dispute has been raised with the commission, a commissioner is appointed to the case must try to resolve the dispute within 30 days
  2. The commissioner puts together a conciliation strategy that must include mediating, gathering information and then recommending a solution
  3. Within 30 days or as per the agreed upon completion term, the commissioner will need to provide a certificate detailing the outcome of the dispute

The commission is obligated to protect the rights of employees and employers, so if you are treating your employees fairly, according to the labour law, you have nothing to be worried about.

To find out more about the CCMA and it's processes, email them at ho@ccma.org.za.

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