An arbitrator is an impartial third party who facilitates conflict negotiations between employers and employees or unions and employers, during legal proceedings called arbitration. Conflicts are resolved outside of the court system by mutual consent of the parties involved.

Arbitrators may be lawyers, but frequently the parties involved choose an arbitrator for his expertise in the subject matter of their dispute, for example, architects, engineers and the like, who sometimes have little or no formal legal training and experience. Arbitrators, however, need to be thoroughly familiar with, and experienced in, the law and practice of arbitration, the rules of evidence and procedure, the laws of contract and delict, and basic legal principles.

The process is as follows: arbitrators set up appointments for the parties to meet for mediation, and confer with the disputants to clarify the issues, identify the underlying concerns and develop an understanding of their respective needs and interests.  During the initial meetings conducted with the disputants, the arbitration process is outlined, procedural matters such as fees are settled, or details such as witness numbers or time requirements determined.  Claimants, agents or witnesses are interviewed to obtain information about the disputed issues.  Information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates or physician or employer records is evaluated.  They analyse the evidence and apply relevant laws, regulations, policies and precedents in order to reach conclusions, and research laws, regulations, policies or precedent decisions to prepare for the hearings. 

Mediation techniques are used to facilitate communication between the disputing parties, to further the parties' understanding of the different perspectives and to guide the parties towards a mutual agreement.  They rule on exceptions, motions or admissibility of evidence and notify claimants of denied claims and appeal rights.  Acceptance or rejection of the compromise settlement offers is recommended, and settlement agreements prepared for the disputants to sign. 

In cases of disputes between labour and management, disputes are solved between labour and management to bind both to specific terms and conditions of the labour contract. They conduct hearings to evaluate the contentions of parties regarding the disputed contract provisions. They analyse the information obtained, using their knowledge of the facts in issue and industry practices. They render binding decisions to settle the dispute, protect public interests, prevent employee wage loss, and minimise business interruptions. They issue a report concerning the results of arbitration.  Payment of valid claims is authorised.  In some cases they participate in court proceedings and might issue subpoenas or administer oaths to prepare for formal hearings.

Personal Requirements

  • be able to speak and write effectively
  • be able to cope with conflicting points of view
  • be able to cope under pressure
  • be mature and have a well-balanced personality
  • have a persuasive, congenial personality
  • be capable of objective and dispassionate judgement
  • be able to work well with all types of people

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's Degree pass or a Diploma pass
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: None

In addition, check the university admission requirements to see if you qualify for the programme you want to do.

What to Study

Degree or diploma including subjects such as Business Management, Accounting, Law, Labour Relations, Sociology, Psychology.


  • government departments
  • local government
  • medium-sized and larger organisations
  • self-employment

Further Information

Association of Arbitrators (Southern Africa)
3rd Floor, Block B
Sandown House,
Norwich Close (off 5th Street),
Sandton, 2196
Tel: (011) 884-9164/5

Getting Started

  • speak to an arbitrator about this career
  • read up on labour law cases in the media
  • read up on the labour laws of the country
  • work on your language, communication and public-speaking skills

Programmes by Study Institutions

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