Edition: Dec 2013- Feb 2014

Have employees/fund members claimed all their retirement fund benefits from all previous employers they’ve ever worked for? Since they probably haven’t, Ian Haigh* advises them on what they should do.

Haigh . . . billions await

People who work for a company normally belong to a retirement fund. There are large umbrella funds for specific industries such as those with Bargaining Council agreements. Their employer should also have a retirement fund for its employees. Members should check their pay slips to check whether a payment is coming off it to go to a retirement fund.

Many employees during their working lives have worked for many employers. When they change employers, they may not know that they belong to a fund and so do not claim the benefit which comprises their own contributions, employer contributions and interest growth. If they do not claim their money from the fund after 24 months from leaving the employer, the money could be transferred to the Guardians Fund run by the Master of the High Court or be transferred to an unclaimed benefits fund. Or it may have remained in the fund as an unclaimed benefit.

During the early 2000s all funds had to go through a surplus apportionment exercise that included past members. This has resulted in members, who left their employer and taken their full benefit at the time, possibly having a further benefit due to them from this surplus-apportionment exercise. It is therefore worth contacting your old employers to ask whether they had a surplus exercise and, if so, whom to contact to establish whether any surplus is due.

Any employee who has left an employer without taking his or her retirement fund money at that time, should in fact make enquiries from the former employer. Employees who know to which pension or provident fund they belonged should approach that fund directly.

The mining industry and the security industry, for example, have many unclaimed benefits in both the industry umbrella funds and the employer funds. Billions of rands in unclaimed benefits need to be claimed. They must be returned to fund members.

Fund members will have to prove they worked for the company. A copy of a pay slip, appointment letter or employment contract is necessary. So too is your ID document.

The large industry umbrella funds and commercial umbrella funds run by retirement-fund administrators all have participating employers. Each employer has its own fund in the umbrella fund and all members/employees have their own individual accounts.

When working for an employer and the employee belongs to a fund, all employees should annually receive individual benefit statements. They’d show how much the employee has saved and the other benefits that apply.

The big umbrella funds, the unclaimed-benefit funds and the Guardians Fund employ tracing agents to try finding members who have left their employer and not claimed their benefits.

The Financial Services Board is constructing a website facility to search for unclaimed benefits. In any event, you can contact the Guardians Fund through any Master of the High Court office.

There are many commercial unclaimed-benefits funds. You should to try to establish which fund your former employer would have used for sending the unclaimed benefits, and then contact that fund’s administrator.

Do not let lawyers or other agents offer to get the money unless their fees are inexpensive. Members should rather get for themselves the money owed to them.

Any good financial advisor should establish from clients which employers they’ve worked for, what benefits they received on leaving, and whether there was a surplus scheme subsequent to them leaving. There might still be monies due to them.

* Ian Haigh CFP is a director of Mvunonala Holdings subsidiary Bophelo Benefit Services, a licensed Financial Services Provider.