Labour 101: A simple guide to the CCMA

Lungi Madonsela - June 2, 2022


For many people, the CCMA is a very scary and daunting process. There seem to be a million rules and little to no guidance from the CCMA itself. This article serves as a simple guide to the CCMA, providing you with the basics that will make the CCMA process a lot simpler. 

What is the CCMA and what is its purpose?

The CCMA is the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The CCMA was established in order to relieve pressure from other courts on labour matters and to allow employees and employers a safe space to resolve their workplace disputes in a manner that will allow the relationship between employer and employee to proceed following a dispute. The CCMA has also been established to balance the power dynamics between employer and employee. 

There are three steps to resolving a dispute at the CCMA. 

  1. Conciliation – is a very informal process used by the CCMA to find an amicable solution to a dispute. No attorneys or legal representatives are allowed at this stage. If a person is not happy with the outcome of the conciliation, they are welcome to appeal the process.
  2. Mediation – a slightly more structured approach to resolving the dispute. The commissioner will act as a mediator and attempt to resolve the issues in order to reach some sort of settlement agreement between the parties. No attorneys or legal representatives are allowed at this stage, and decisions from this stage are non-binding and also appealable.
  3. Arbitration – this is the CCMA’s last approach. The procedure is formal and all parties involved must prepare their arguments and bundles of evidence as if they are going to a court hearing at the Magistrates’ Court or the High Court. At this stage of the process, you are advised to have an attorney or legal representative. The decisions made are binding on the parties, and they cannot be appealed. You can only review a decision made by the arbitrator.

Who can go to the CCMA? 

All employees and employers can approach the CCMA for help with their workplace disputes. The only people who cannot approach the CCMA are independent contractors, shareholders and any case that falls outside the scope of the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. 

How much does it cost to go to the CCMA?

The CCMA is free; however, in some instances, when labour legislation allows fees to be charged, the Commission may charge fees. The CCMA may charge fees in the following circumstances: 

  • When conducting, overseeing or scrutinising any election or ballot at the request of a registered trade union or employers’ organisation. The fee is between R750 to R1000 for each day or part thereof; 
  • When asked by employees, employers, registered trade unions, a registered federation of trade unions, federations of employers organisations or councils to provide advice or training relating 
    • the establishing collective bargaining structures; 
    • designing, establishing and electing workplace forums and creating deadlock-breaking mechanisms;
    •  the functioning of workplace forums; 
    • preventing and resolving disputes and employees’ grievances; 
    • disciplinary procedures; procedures in relation to dismissals; 
    • the process of restructuring the workplace; 
    • affirmative action and equal opportunity programmes; 
    • sexual harassment in the workplace; 

The fee is between R750 and R1500 for each day or part thereof. 

  • The CCMA may charge an employer with an arbitration fee in dismissal matters relating to conduct/capacity where the commissioner finds that a dismissal is procedurally unfair.

Can all labour disputes be referred to the CCMA?

The CCMA generally has jurisdiction over all labour disputes, except when:

  • There is a bargaining council for that sector of the employment field. 
  • The matter falls outside the scope of the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
  • You are an independent contractor or a shareholder.

What matters does the CCMA have jurisdiction over?

  • All unfair dismissals
  • Unfair labour practices
  • Discrimination 
  • Freedom of association
  • Claims for monies that have not been paid (overtime, severance pay, leave days, salaries, wages, commission and bonuses).
  • Unilateral changes to an employment contract
  • Temporary employment 
  • Part-time employment 

And so many more, the CCMA’s referral form has many options for the applicant to choose from. Should your dispute not be on the referral form chances are your dispute falls outside of the CCMA’s jurisdiction. 

Some rules you should be aware of:

Owing to the fact that the CCMA gets millions of applications on a regular basis, there are some rules that have been put in place to ensure that all matters are dealt with efficiently.

Time limits:

These are periods set by the CCMA in which you are allowed to bring your matter to them

  • Unfair dismissals – 30 days from the date of dismissal.
  • Unfair labour practices – 90 days from the date of the event
  • Discrimination – 180 days from the date of the event

In the event that you submit your matter outside the time limit prescribed by the CCMA, you can always file for condonation. When applying for condonation you are essentially asking the CCMA to forgive your late application and to hear your matter because it has good merits. 


If you are claiming for monies owed to you by an employer, you can only approach the CCMA if you earn below the threshold of R211 596.30 per year, which is approximately R17 633,025 per month. If you earn above that amount then you are encouraged to seek remedies from the Labour Court.

Lungi Madonsela

Lungi Madonsela

Legal Administrator