What happens at a CCMA hearing?

How to Prepare for a Hearing at the CCMA

For those who are new to the CCMA, we are happy to give guidance on CCMA procedures for small businesses.

Let’s take a look at what to expect from the CCMA, who and what to take with you, and how to make the relevant decisions at a Conciliation and Arbitration meeting.

1. Conciliation Stage Procedures


Arrive at the CCMA at least 15 minutes before time set down (if you are later, the Commissioner will wait 30 minutes, try and telephone in if this happens).

Go to the admission desk and give the receptionist your company name, she will tick it off and ask you to take a seat. The Commissioner will come to collect you and the ex-employee.

Address the Commissioner simply as “Commissioner’

If the ex-employee doesn’t arrive, and is still not there after 30 minutes, the Commissioner will issue of certificate of non-resolution. Make sure to get a copy.

CCMA Preparation – Witnesses and documents

Have your witnesses either with you, or on standby with their cell phones, in reasonably close proximity, and

Have all your documents with you, so that if you don’t settle at conciliation stage, you are ready to start the arbitration stage. (See details on arbitration for documents required.)

CCMA Conciliation Stage – representation

This phase is private, not recorded, and confidential to you and the ex-employee who are present.

No lawyers or consultants are allowed to attend. Make sure that if there is someone there whom you don?t recognise who looks like a lawyer or consultant, that you make the point that they cannot be present. They can wait out in the corridor and when the Commissioner meets with you and the ex-employee separately, they can then be present in that private meeting with the individual parties.

CCMA Conciliation Stage – process

The Commissioner does not make judgements on the merits of the case at this stage but does need to know enough about the matter to assist on guiding you on where the ex-employee wants to settle, and where you might consider settling.

The Commissioner will usually ask the applicant to describe why he made the application, what he thinks was unfair, and what he wants out of it (that is whether he wants to be re-instated or the number of months salary is the usual way of working).

The Commissioner will then ask you why you believe that what you did is procedurally and substantively fair.

CCMA Conciliation Stage – describing your case

Give the Commissioner a very short overview, such as:

  • You are a small business, for example owned by you and your partner
  • It is a small industry and a lot of your business comes from word of mouth, therefore your company name and customer service are of prime importance to you.
  • You have not been to CCMA ever before and appreciate any guidance on procedures and if you don’t provide the correct response to questions.
  • Then the Commissioner will be looking for evidence of what it was that went wrong, what you did about it procedurally, and whether the action you took was in line with what had happened.

Give the Commissioner a description of the procedure you followed:

  • How the matter started for example: That you received a written report (you don’t have to show it at that stage, just describe the content) or what happened,
  • Describe if relevant whether you have written forms and procedures for a disciplinary procedure, whether you have an employment contract,
  • Explain that you understand that it is not necessary for the procedure to be a “legal’ procedure, but that the person must be given time to prepare, to know what it is about, to have representation (usually internal), and to be heard on what happened and their explanation of events,
  • You can describe the outcome of your investigation- if relevant,
  • Who chaired the proceedings, and how you described everything that had happened,
  • How the employee responded,
  • That you had a list of previous misconduct and inappropriate behaviour, all of which you had addressed and that these are all on file,
  • That you had a previous misconduct, for example: a reason to dismiss, but that you had given the employee an additional chance,
  • That during the course of the incidents you have lost trust,
  • The outcome of the hearing, and
  • That you then dismissed the employee and the details of the termination payment.