GEPF changes benefits for children and divorcees

Children of GEPF members are the biggest winners in the improvement to benefits.

Government Employees Pension FundOne of the more frequent questions we receive from members of the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) relates to the treatment of their pension fund on divorce. This issue has been addressed as part of a review of the GEPF benefits along with other important benefit changes, including when a child qualifies for their parent’s pension.

Of the eight changes that have been communicated to members, three came into effect on 1 October 2017, while the remaining five require a change to the law and are still undergoing parliamentary process. “Those changes that only required a rule change by trustees have already been finalised, however those that require changes to the GEP Law have been submitted to parliament and will hopefully be finalised early next year,” explains GEPF Principal Officer Abel Sithole.

It is important for members of any retirement scheme to know their benefits, especially when it comes to financial dependents, as this will have an impact on estate planning. This is what GEPF members need to know:

Children to receive a higher pension (awaiting parliamentary approval)

This is the most significant change for members as it represents a major benefit increase for their children. The resolution before parliament is to change the Orphan’s pension fund to a Child’s pension fund and to extend the age until which the child receives the benefit from 18 years old to 22 years old, irrespective of whether or not the child is still studying.

“This is a significant improvement in benefits,” says Sithole who explains that currently the law requires that the child has to prove that both parents are deceased before they can receive the benefit. In many cases, especially with single mothers, the child does not have any contact or financial support from the other parent, yet the current ‘orphan’ rule prevents them from receiving the benefit to which they are entitled. Once parliament approves the changes, a child will benefit from their parent’s pension fund irrespective of whether there is another parent in their lives.

The amount of money received by the child has been increased from 10% to a maximum of 25% of the member’s pension benefit, but this is reduced proportionately depending on the number of children eligible and whether there is a spousal pension.

For example, if a member dies, leaving a spouse and two children, under the current rules the spouse would receive 50% of the pension and the children would receive 10% each of the member’s pension (20% in total). Under the new rules each child would be entitled to 25% of the member’s pension (50% in total). However, if there are three children they would each receive 16.67% of the pension (50% in total).

In the case where there is no spouse and therefore no spousal pension, the children would each receive 25% unless there are more than four children. If there are more than four children the pension would be divided equally between them – for example five children aged 22 or younger would each receive 20% of the member’s pension. If there are more than ten children, each child would still receive a minimum benefit of 10%.

No more pension ‘debt’ on divorce (awaiting parliamentary approval)

The clean break principle applies where a divorce agreement allows for the non-member spouse to receive a portion of the member’s pension fund. Currently the way the pension withdrawal is calculated uses the concept of debt and interest in the apportionment of pension benefits on divorce. This means that members effectively have a “debt” owing on their pension fund. The resolution before parliament is to amend the GEPF law and adjust the member’s service following payment of a divorce settlement by the fund. For example, if you have 18 years of service and the divorce settlement entitles the non-member spouse to 50% of the pension fund interest, then the years of service would be reduced to nine years in terms of benefit calculations. If a member chooses, they can select to buy back those years of service by either paying in immediately or increasing their monthly contributions. “It is important that members understand that the GEPF does not determine the sharing of the benefit. That is part of the divorce agreement and the GEPF is only acting on the court order,” says Sithole.

Improvement in funeral benefits (immediate)

As from 1 October 2017, funeral benefits for members and their spouses increase from R7 500 to R15 000. Funeral benefits for eligible children and stillborn increases from R3 000 to R6 000.

Voluntary fund to boost retirement savings (awaiting parliamentary approval)

For members who are worried about a shortfall in their retirement funding, the GEPF has passed a resolution that will allow members to increase their retirement contributions while in active employment and allow members who have a fixed contract of 36 months or more, and who are not currently members of GEPF, an option to make provision for retirement.

Currently most GEPF members have a total contribution of 20.5% of salary (7.5% by member and 13% by government). The maximum one can pay into a retirement fund and receive a tax deduction is 27.5% of salary (capped at R350 000 per annum), so this change will allow members to contribute additional tax-free funds if they choose to.

“For members who feel that they want to put more money away for retirement, they can do so through the GEPF which is the most cost-effective fund in South Africa,” says Sithole who adds that the details of the additional contribution scheme still need to be finalised as it would not form part of the defined benefits fund and would be treated purely on investment returns.

Establish a preservation vehicle (awaiting parliamentary approval)

The GEPF plans to form a preservation fund so that members changing jobs can leave their retirement funds within the scheme and benefit from economies of scale in respect of administration and investment costs. This is a voluntary option and not compulsory.

Young spouses will not be cross-subsidised (awaiting parliamentary approval)

The GEPF provides an automatic spousal pension of 50% of the member’s pension, however, if a member chooses, on retirement they can sacrifice 3.5% of their monthly income to boost the spousal pension to 75%. The problem arises when the spouse is much younger than the member. Sithole says they have a case where they have been paying a spousal pension for 40 years as the spouse was 30 years younger than the member. Irrespective of age, the spouse will still receive the 50% spousal pension, but where a member wishes to boost the spousal pension to 75%, the gender and age of the spouse will be taken into consideration when calculating the cost.

Discharge benefit (immediate)

The GEPF has changed the rules to remove the anomaly between the resignation benefit and the discharge benefit for members with less than 10 years’ service. Normally on retirement the GEPF pays one-third lump sum and provides an income to the pensioner with the remaining two-thirds. However, members retiring with less than 10 years of service receive the full lump sum on retirement. The anomaly between the member’s contribution and the actuarial interest meant that a member who resigned within 10 years received more money than if they retired within 10 years of joining the GEPF. As from 1 October this anomaly has been removed and a retiree with less than 10 years of service will receive the same amount of money as they would if they resigned. As the tax tables are far more favourable for a retirement than a resignation, it makes sense for the employee to select the retirement option.

Market value adjustment (immediate)

This change is largely technical and only relates to a situation where the GEPF is underfunded which is not the case at the moment. Market value adjustment meant that the benefit of a member who transfers to another retirement fund many be lower than the benefit payable if the same member was to resign and cash in. As this goes against the principle of retirement funding, the GEPF amended its rules from 1 October so that market value adjustment will not be applied. This means the member transferring to another fund will receive the same amount as if they cashed in the funds (before tax).

However, if there is a large transfer of members – for example if an entire department transfers to another scheme, then the market value adjustment would apply to protect the fund from paying full benefits to those leaving the scheme at the cost of those staying behind.

This article first appeared in City Press.

62 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi Maya

    Please assist. I have just called GEPF to confirm if the R15000 funeral benefit was paid for my mother who passed away in 2019 and they confirm it was. I am having issues with my stepfather (mom’s spouse-married) who made me take out a loan for my mother’s funeral and claimed that this R15000 never came through and promised to pay it back as soon as the policy paid and never did. Where can I report him?

  • Good day, I have just found out that my sons father has passed away recently, last month. And I wanted to find out the process to follow as hes 12 years old. What is required to claim for his child pension? He was conceived out of wedlock and due to the fact I was not 18 he requested not to be listed as his father on his birth certificate. Thank you for your assistance

  • Hey… I would like to know how do I claim when my father passed away in 2014 and he was a pharmacist in a public hospital. I’m the only child of him, using his surname, I’m the only one who is in the list of beneficiary, because my mother died In 2005. I got a letter from GEPF last year and I didn’t open that letter. I never claimed anything from GEPF and I’m 24 now.


  • Hi Maya, I got divorced and my ex wife received a 50% pension benefit payout from my pension as part of the divorce order agreement. After a year we got back together again and are considering remarrying. Can I add her as a dependent after marriage on my pension fund or would they not grant her any benefits due to the payout she received?

  • Hi Maya

    my mother passed away while getting my father’s money of his pension, every month so we have claim the funeral benefit and get is there any money we will recieved, that was left of our father’s pension?


  • My mother died on the 1st of September 2017. And after her funeral me and my brother went to make a claim and we got the funeral benefit of R7 500 of which that was before the law was changed regarding funeral benefits. So my question is weren’t we supposed to also get another funeral benefit of which by then was R3000 and R6000 dat is of eligle children of the former pensioner?

    I hope I’m not confusing you….. Thank you in advance

  • My father died in 2015 and has a wife, he was a member of GEPF.
    Must I claim maintenance from her or must I apply for child’s pension?

  • Hi

    My mother is the sole beneficiary of her brother’s GEPF.
    She also has her own GEPF monthly payout.
    Can she claim his?

    • Whether she is a GEPF member or not would make no difference to her claim to her brother’s pension. However, if her brother had already retired and died more than five years after retirement, there would not be a payout to beneficiaries – only as spousal pension.

  • Good morning
    I would like to know how do I claim when my Dad passed away and he was a teacher and I was not using his surname, I was not in his list of beneficiary


  • Su-ann

    Good day. I would like to know, our mother passed last year. We were raised by our grand parents my mom never provided us with anything even though she had a good job. With her passing we realized she put only the 3 minor kids on her provide fund but not me and my elder sister which is 30. Just in case I’m 27, can we contest this and where do we start with doing so.

    • The trustees of the pension fund are obliged to cater for any financial dependents at the time of her death. If you and your sister are not financially dependent on her then they would not have included you. You can make an application to the trustees via the GPAA but it is unlikely they would make a change at this stage. If your mother left any other assets (house, investments) that would be catered by her Will or if she did not have one then the courts would determine based on a prescribed formula. In most cases children who are still financially dependent are first provided for – although I certainly understand your position.

  • Good afternoon Mrs/miss maya.

    I have a 16years old sister who’s residing with me her mother was a permanent teacher who passed away in 2005, her estate was reported and the child was receiving a monthly payment till it stoped 2007 she then haven’t recieved it till now has she will be turning 17years, I just want to know that doesn’t it suppose she is receiving her monthly child pension till she’s 18 year? If so how can I resolve this issue thank you.

  • Hi Maya, my father passed away in December 2018 and I applied for his benefit in February 2019 and submitted his other two kids names. . I submitted their names and contacts to the Government Pension Administration Agency in May 2019 and they contacted them to so that they can go and claim and they were not co-operative.
    Now the GEPF is saying they can’t pay my share if they haven’t received the other kids application.
    Please advise on what to do because I cannot tell the other kids to go and claim because we don’t have a good relationship.

  • Hi Maya…I have a question about my daughter. Her father and never married.. he married someone else they have 2 kids together he was supporting my child. Now I would like to know is she going to get anything from gepf. The father suddenly passed away and our daughter is 8 years old.

  • My father went on pension in 2018 Nov, he is not married, he promised that when he goes on pension me and my 2 other siblings will receive shares from his pension,which did not happen. We are all over the age 30. Now he is not even cooperative when we ask him about this. Was he right when he said we will receive something upon his pension?

    • Sadly most pensioners retire with insufficient income to provide a decent retirement. Perhaps when he discussed this he hoped he would have more. Be thankfully he is not relying on you financially! That is enough of a gift.

  • If I divorce my spouse, is he/she entitled to any claim on my pension fund. Is there a law that can force me to agree in the divorce settlement.

    • There is no law within GEPF that states your spouse is entitled to a portion of your pension. However, based on your marriage contract, a divorce agreement would stipulate what value of the total assets he/she is entitled to. How those assets are divided will form part of the agreement

  • I just need to know what happens if a gepf member who has been paying child maintenance retires, will the child continue to receive the maintenance. Is there anything that I can do to prevent the non payment of my child maintenance from happening. Will I even be contacted by the gepf fund as they would see that their member’s salary has that deduction that happens every month. This is really troubling me. Please help.
    Bongiwe Khanyile


  • Hi,

    If I was leaving with my spouse for the past 15 years and having kids together and not officially married. we decided to get married officially “in community of property” and my spouse is divorcing me just after few months of the marriage. If my spouse (Non- GEPF member) is claiming 50% share of my pension interest, will GEPF consider the official duration of marriage before payout or they just pay according to the court order?

  • Hi please explain the working back of service years for divorce debt.That also don’t make sense to me.Im working g 22years and will only get 11years service money if I decide not to pay back and how long must I pay back …Forever….

        • We are waiting for the President to sign it into law, which he will hopefully do soon! It will be retrospective, which means you can still select to rather have your years of service reduced if you made a payment before the change in law.

    • The new rule, which will come into effect when the President signs, is that your years of service will be reduced by the amount that was paid out in the divorce. Basically a divorce order is in effect a “cashing in” of a portion of your pension benefit before retirement

  • My husband retired 3 years ago he did not share any pension fund with me he left with the money leave with 2 kids

  • My daughter is a beneficiary to my late sisters pension. She will turn 18 in December this year. Is there any percentage of the monies she will receive before the benefits are deposited into the Guardian Fund.

  • My daughter is a beneficiary to my late sister’s pension. She is 17yrs old. GPAA said the money will be into the Guardian’s Fund, is she able to get a portion of the monies before the deposit into the Fund.

  • Hi there! I’m turning 50 this year and have a ten year teaching experience with a break up service and I want to resign this year. I also owe SARS some amount of money.
    What would happen in terms of taxation to my lump some and how long will it take for a payout

  • Hi there

    My dad passed away. He n my mother were divorced. He defaulted from paying maintenance which was in the divorce letter. Can we claim this maintenance money from his pension before i get a child share? Secondly when he divorced my mother she did not receive her 50% share. Can she still claim it and how?. Thirdly My father remarried n has other children do the kids which are not his which he married the current wife with get a child share?

  • i got divorced 18 months ago and I now i want to retire. I have 33 yrs of service. how much can i expect to get out as many of my colleagues are saying they had to pay back money to the department. Those that did not pay back money were very disappointed.

  • I had a divorce few years back and i like to know how far the parlimentarian process have come in terms of changing this debt that gepf is creating at moment when members divorce

  • Do you have any information on the progress of the amendment of the the GEPF law with regards to divorce debt being charged and interest to be paid? We have already signed a divorce agreement and I have been served with the sommons, but now my husband (the GEPF member) wants to halt the divorce until the rule has been amended. Is there any indication as to when this will be implemented? Am I accountable for the interest charged?

  • Hi my husband died and filed a nomination form leaving with 20% and my children 25%each 3children and the other 5% so do I qualify to get 50% automatic spouse lump sum from Gepf?

  • My child’s father pays maintenance every month through court. He is retiring next month May 31 2018. He is a foreigner from West Africa. Am I losing the maintenance as he might take all home. The child is still grade 11.

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