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The question of retirement age in South Africa
can be thorny at best.

YEI unpacks the topic of the retirement age in South Africa


Retirement Age


Baby boomers are retiring in their scores. The only issue is that many baby boomers are not ready to retire, mostly because of financial reasons. but also because they are not ready to beput out to pasture”. Boomers want to keep active in their areas of expertise, skill, and knowledge. Way before the “Big Birthday” looms, employers and employees need to have their ducks in a row in order to prevent any uncertainty, trouble, and dispute.

As comedian George Burns said: “Retirement at 65 is ridiculous! When I was 65, I still had pimples!”.

First things first. You cannot be forced to retire unless this is specified in your employment contract. If you do not have an employment contract that specifically speaks about the retirement age, you cannot be discriminated against because of your age and you should be allowed to work for as long you are physically and mentally able. But it really is in your best interests and the best interests of the company to agree on a retirement age.


Let’s unpack all of those statements:


Labour Relations Act


The Labour Relations Act, section 187 (1) (f) cites that in the absence of an employment contract specifying retirement age, dismissal of an employee based on his/her age is automatically unfair. This kind of dispute can be taken to the Labour Court and it is possible that should the employee win the case, compensation will be awarded in an amount of up to 24 months of the employee’s remuneration.


Employment contract with employer,
stipulating retirement at a certain age


If you have a retirement age stipulated in your employment contract, then that’s it. Be prepared to pack up and go on retirement, making sure you make preparation for retirement and leaving the workforce.


But what is the legally required retirement age?


The Basic Conditions of Employment Act does not prescribe an age at which employees should retire. Labour legislation is silent on determining the retirement age. Could it be 55, 60 or 65? It is therefore up to the employer to prescribe the retirement age for its employees with the best and safest course of action, having a formal retirement policy in place, and a written agreement with every employee specifying a compulsory retirement date.


Retirement Age


Agreement with employer on retirement age, or company norm


If retirement age is not stipulated in your contract, but it has been agreed, and there is a company norm, then the employer is well within their rights to give you a notice period, which will equal that of a notice period for termination of employment, as set out in your employment contract. A company or organisational norm will generally be found in the company policy or in the rules of the provident or pension fund rules pertaining to the company.


No agreement and no mention of retirement in your contract


What now? No mention of a retirement age in your agreement or contract, and there is no company or organisational norm? The courts have found that it is unfair discrimination for your services to be terminated, purely because of your age. You should be able to continue to work until such time as it is proven that you are unable to do your job properly. Terminated contracts have to be in line with labour legislation i.e. due to misconduct, operational requirements or incompetence.


Unfair treatment


Penny van den Berg, HR Specialist Consultant at Optimise HR, says: If you believe that you have been unfairly treated by your employer, then you can lodge a complaint with the CCMA which ensures that all employees are treated fairly. Other than time, it costs you nothing to lodge a complaint and you don’t need to incur any legal costs.”


Working post-retirement age


It is in the best interests of the employer and the employee to clearly define and record the terms of employment after retirement age has come and gone. Issues like how long the employee can work for, and what notice period is required regarding termination of employment need to be laid out in an extended employment contract.


Retirement age


Older Person’s Grant


Social grants are administered by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). This does include the Older Person’s Grant. Social grants in South Africa are currently ‘means tested’. The means test is the process of assessing the value of your assets and income. You will only be eligible for a grant if your income and assets fall below a certain threshold.

For further information on the Older Person’s Grant, please click here.



Have your say


Have your say about retirement


Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts about retirement. Are you retired already?
Would you like to share some of your experiences?


This article is provided for informational purposes only. Please note that YEI is not a legal professional, and that the above YEI article was researched and written, based on extensive research, and including the following research sources. Please seek the services and advice of a legal professional, should your circumstances warrant you to do so.


Research Sources:


Western Cape Government

Labour Guide

Go Legal

Hereford Group

Schoeman Law


YEI’s Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions apply.


Read More:


The unique challenges of senior entrepreneurship


  • Lynette Van Wyk says:

    There was no retirement age set in my original contract with my company and some employees only retired at the age of 80. In the last month this changed and we are now forced to sign new contracts stipulating that we have to retire at 65. Some of us only have 2 years left and can not afford to retire at 65..What should we do? Do we have to sign these new contracts?

  • Jean Hutchinson says:

    I am 56. My contract where I worked sto 2017. I am battling to get a job. Can I apply for pension.

  • Collin van wyk says:

    I’m writing on behalf of my uncle, he was told by his employer (municipality) to retire at age 60, cause no one is allowed to work for the municipality above 60. however the pesion fund still regards that as early retirement which leads to members of the fund being penalised and do not get they full pension pay-outs.

    Is there anyway he can take this matter future?

  • Linzi says:

    Hi there, if one has no employment contract, merely a letter of appointment. Its a small company and therefore now the oldest person in the company; 67 is being forced to retire.However they are offering to pay a lump sum as to let one go. If the lump sum is accepted, does that mean there is no legal ramifications for the employer and that accepts their decision? Any advice is appreciated.

    • Mashabela Tau Tau says:

      Hi , i forced to retire on age of 63 i did consulted the HR personnel to extend my services they denied for me, i was feared that my pension benefits will affected by the low inflation rate as rand struggling a lot against dollar’s so i need help how to deal with the situation as affected a lot, im still weath to go back to my normal job

      • Angela Watkins says:

        Good morning Linzi, we are sorry that you are going through this stressful time. We suggest you contact a good investment/pension advisor to assist you with how to get the best out of the money you have. Regards YEI team

  • Sting says:

    Good day
    My wife will be 63 this year. She signed a contract to retire at age 65. Can she is allowed to leave this year 2020? Also if she is allowed, will this be treated as (a) a resignation (b) early retirement (c) would she be penalised. Finally does the government not treat age 60 as the retirement age without any penalty?


    • Angela W says:

      Good day, we would suggest that you contact a Labour lawyer to advise you on the finer details of the labour law and of your wife’s employment contract. Kind regards. YEI

  • FIONA JACOBS says:

    Good Day
    Please advise if you can assist with some answers.
    my husbands Company have indicated that anyone over a pensionable age should consider their options in the coming months. however their employment letters do not mention retirement age and one of my husbands colleagues is 79 years old , can they use the – forced retirements rather than retrenchment if there is no mention of retirement age in their employment letters and is it better financially for the employees to insist on retrenchment packages rather than forced retirements – will they still be able to negotiate the same financial packages ?

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Fiona

      Thank you for your enquiry. So sorry to hear of your circumstances and trust you can resolve them satisfactorily. Sadly, You’ve Earned It is not allowed to give advice in this regard, as we are not financial or legal experts. However, are trying to find out some answers from one of YEI’s partners and will get back to you if we are successful. Otherwise, we would recommend that you consult with either the HR Department in your husband’s company, or a Labour Lawyer in order to get the correct advice.

      All the best

      Warm regards, YEI

  • Nellie says:

    I ve worked as a domestic worker since 2009 looking after 3childern and housework. I’m 64 yrs will be 65yrs in August and would like to step down for my retirement. What I would like to know is as a permanent worker is there any money which I would get frm my employers as a thank u or not or am I entitled any package from them I was on uif and I m now getting my sassa funds.

    • Marilynh says:

      Hello Nellie

      You’ve Earned It is not in a position to comment on legal requirements. Our recommendation is that you seek advice from a labour lawyer.

      Regards, YEI

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