It was certainly a relief when the CCMA issued a notice announcing the opening of its doors to the public after two months of closure as a result of the nationwide lockdown. Unfortunately, the CCMA has not been immune to the effects of Covid-19 and many of its regional offices have had to temporarily shut down for decontamination purposes after some of their staff members tested positive for the virus.
On 30 July 2020, the CCMA issued a notice regulating access to its services during this pandemic
and this notice replaced previous notices that have been issued regulating access to the CCMA. The notice which is effective from 1 August 2020 dictates a number of changes on the further handling of disputes by the CCMA.
The following measures will now apply in respect of conciliation
and large-scale retrenchments
The public is no longer permitted to visit any offices of the CCMA for purposes of making inquiries, submitting or collecting referral forms and any other related documents. Service of documents may be made by electronic mails and facsimile.
- Electronic signature of referral forms will be allowed if they can be stored and printed when necessary.
- The CCMA will issue a certificate of non-resolution if the 30 day period of receiving the referral has lapsed and the parties concerned have not consented to the extension of the period.
- Where parties reach a settlement, the agreement will be recorded and signed electronically by both parties. Should electronic signatures not be accessible to one or both parties, the parties and the Commissioner will agree on a method to be used to record the terms of the settlement and same will be filed with the CCMA.
- Should a dispute concern a large-scale retrenchment process, the parties to the dispute must attempt to reach consensus on the manner which will facilitate the process. A digital online platform will first be considered and should this not be possible, a suitable external venue may be used.
The following will apply in respect of application proceedings
(such as condonation, rescission, etc):
The most identifiable changes this notice has made is that CCMA matters must be conducted via virtual platforms.
- Application proceedings will no longer be scheduled for oral hearings and will therefore be decided on paper. Where this is not possible, they will be conducted through video conferencing.
- Where oral evidence is required and one or more parties do not have access to a form of electronic means, the CCMA may direct that the matter be heard through a suitable external venue which may be at the employer’s premises.
- Where an application is made in the form of a statement without a signature, the CCMA requires confirmation from the submitting party through electronic means such as SMS, WhatsApp, voice recording or any electronic method that is not in the public domain and that can be stored safely, retrieved and printed by the CCMA.
- A ruling issued by the Commissioner will be sent to the Parties by electronic mails or by post and physical collection will be permitted by making prior arrangements with the relevant CCMA that heard the matter.
Where this is not possible, the matter may be heard at any suitable external venue and the CCMA offices being the last resort if these options are not feasible.
It is important to note that this notice does not attempt to vary or replace any time period within which a litigant is required to act in terms of any applicable statute or CCMA rules. Consequently, the duty continues to rest with the referring party to ensure timeous referral of their disputes to the CCMA, regardlesss of the method used for such referrals.