A certificate of outcome, also referred to as the 7.12 form, is a document completed and issued by the Commissioner at the CCMA or Bargaining Council after conciliation proceedings, allowing the Applicant to proceed to arbitration or litigate at the Labour Court.

This document allows the Applicant to proceed to the next stage of their case, and the Applicant cannot proceed further with their case without attaching a copy of the certificate of outcome. The pro forma certificate makes a provision for the Commissioner to categorise the dispute and indicate the forum or the following process to follow in resolving the conflict.

In other words, the Commissioner must indicate on the certificate whether the dispute should proceed to arbitration, adjudication at the Labour Court, or to embark on strike action. Rule 15 of the CCMA Rules states that a certificate of outcome must identify the nature of the dispute as described in the referral document or as determined by the Commissioner during the conciliation process.

When is a certificate of outcome issued?
Section 135(5) of the Labour Relations Act requires that when conciliation fails, the conciliating Commissioner must issue a certificate of outcome at the end of the 30-day period or any further period agreed between the parties, stating whether the dispute between the parties has been resolved or not resolved.

Essentially, a certificate of outcome is issued at the conclusion of the conciliation proceedings if the parties have failed to enter into a settlement agreement or resolve the dispute between them.

What is the effect of the certificate of outcome?
The certificate of outcome allows the Applicant to take the dispute to the “next step”, and the Applicant cannot proceed to the “next step” without this document being issued. The importance of the certificate of outcome is to ensure that the disputes are conciliated before they proceed to arbitration or the Labour Court.

In the case of Goldfields Mining South Africa (Pty) Ltd (Kloof Gold Mine) v CCMA and Others (unreported case No JR 2006/08), the court held that a certificate of outcome had no legal significance other than that it is merely a statement that the dispute referred to conciliation has been conciliated and that it was resolved or remained unresolved following the conciliation.

Does a certificate of outcome confer jurisdiction?
Where a jurisdictional issue is raised during conciliation proceedings, and the conciliating Commissioner does not rule to that effect, the issuance of the certificate of the outcome by that Commissioner does not cure the jurisdictional issue, nor does it confer jurisdiction on the forum that has issued the certificate.

This was made clear in the case of Bombadier Transportation (Pty) Ltd v Lungile Mtiya & Other [2010] 8 BLLR 840 (LC), where the court held that the certificate of outcome has nothing to do with jurisdiction. The court held further that the value of the certificate of outcome indicates that the first step in the dispute resolution process has been completed and that same does not confer jurisdiction on the CCMA to do anything that the CCMA is not empowered to do. The court made it clear that jurisdiction is not granted or afforded by a CCMA Commissioner issuing a certificate of outcome.

It is clear from the above that a certificate of outcome is a document issued after a failed conciliation, which is to unlock the next stage of dispute resolution for the Applicant and has no legal significance other than stating that the dispute has been conciliated unsuccessfully.

Article by: Sizamkele Jilaji
Dispute Resolution Official – Cape Town