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The Labour Court Process South Africa

labour court process in south africa

The Labour Court as we know it today was founded on the basis of the Labour Relations Act of 1995. It is a court that deals specifically with disputes related to employment law. This can include issues within the work environment between an employer and employee, trade unions, industrial relations, and remuneration requests.

The Labour Court process requires the parties experiencing the dispute to first try to resolve the issue internally. From there, if the dispute has not been resolved, the parties can take the issue to the CCMA (Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration). If the dispute once again fails to be resolved, the case can be taken to the Labour Court; however, depending on the complexity of the case, there are some disputes that can be taken directly to the Labour Court.

The Labour Court is unique in the fact that it has a status akin to that of the High Court.

How the Labour Court Differs from the CCMA

The difference between the CCMA and Labour Court can be confusing, as they can appear to be very similar; however, it is important to be able to distinguish between the two.


  • When a case is taken to the CCMA, one will generally receive a date for a conciliation within eight to twelve weeks.
  • The CCMA is often viewed as an “informal” process that is presided over by a commissioner, and does not always require a lawyer for legal representation.
  • Resolving a dispute via the CCMA can be cheaper as (depending on the necessity) it offers free advice and council, as well as resolution. Thereafter, there may be some additional costs.
  • As an employee, the maximum amount of compensation that can be received is 12 months of salary.

The Labour Court

  • The Labour Court results in a much longer process, as one will typically only receive a court date within twelve to eighteen months. This is due to the immense backlog of cases that are currently being processed through the Labour Court.
  • The process of presenting and resolving a case through the Labour Court is a very formal one. As it is legally driven, it requires a vast amount of documentation and knowledge to successfully navigate through the process. A judge will usually preside over these hearings.
  • The cases that are dealt with at Labour Court are often very complex, and are disputes that cannot be dealt with by the CCMA.
  • An employee can receive up to 24 months of their salary as compensation; however, it is a costly process. This is another reason why smaller disputes don’t typically require the Labour Court, as the financial input and drawn-out timeline are often not worth the remuneration received in the outcome. 

Who Can Appear in the Labour Court?

When a case is brought before the Labour Court, the parties involved in the dispute can choose to appear in person, or can be represented by a third party; however, a party can only be represented by: 

  • A legal practitioner.
  • An employee or director of the party in question.
  • An office-bearer or party official, of the party in question’s trade union. This also applies to a registered employers’ organisation.
  • A council’s official or a designated agent of that council.
  • An official from the Department of Labour.

Do You Need a Lawyer at Labour Court?

It is highly advisable to employ a lawyer as legal representation when going through the Labour Court process. There are many technicalities and details that can easily be overlooked if a professional is not present. Thus, to achieve the desired outcome, it is important to consult a labour law specialist.

To find out more about labour law, and how you can ensure the best outcome for your case, contact our team.