Prescription of arbitration awards – you snooze, you lose.

Judge Coppin has handed down an important judgment regarding the prescription of arbitration awards issued by the CCMA and Bargaining Councils. Prescription is the expiration of the right to enforce a claim after the lapse of a prescribed period of time.

Previously, the courts have held that regardless of the type of award, even in instances of reinstatement, the Prescription Act would certainly apply. An award may be classified as a debt for the purposes of the Prescription Act.

In determining the timeframe associated with prescription of awards, the judge ruled that an award is not a judgment debt but rather a simple debt. Thus a period of three years would apply to the award in terms of prescription. The judge also made it clear that the certification of an award and even the issuing of a writ in respect of the award does not interrupt the running of prescription.

This judgment is important for both employees and employers to ensure that they are aware of the operation of prescription, whether it serves as a motivation to quickly prosecute their matter in the case of an employee, alternatively a useful defence for employers.

Read the judgment here: http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZALAC/2015/45.html

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