Answer to a question from a reader

Can my employer withhold my provident fund to pay outstanding debts without my permission?

The short answer

No, the provident fund can only withhold your money if you owe the employer money or have been convicted in a civil/criminal case

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am still working but the provident fund money has already been paid into my account. My employer keeps asking me to transfer the money to him.

The long answer

Usually, an employer will approach the provident fund and ask the fund to withhold the amount owing to him as a result of damages caused by a member as a result of theft, fraud, dishonesty or misconduct in terms of section 37D(b)(ii) of the Pensions Fund Act. The provident fund can only withhold the money if:

  • If the member has admitted liability (that he does owe the employer the money) in writing


  • A court judgement has been obtained against the member in either a civil or criminal case.

But in this case, as the provident fund has already paid out your money into your account, it seems that your employer did not apply to the pension fund to withhold the amount. This was probably because you had not admitted liability in writing, and he had not obtained a court order against you.  

He can go to court to get a court order against you to pay the money, if you owe him money. But he cannot instruct you to pay over your provident fund money to him without such an order. You can also come to an agreement – which must be signed – that you will pay him an agreed amount each month until the debt is settled.

You may want to consult Legal Aid for advice. They are a means-tested organisation which means they will assist people who cannot afford a lawyer. These are their contact details:

These are the contact details for Legal Aid:

  • Legal Aid Advice Line (Toll-free): 0800 110 110

  • Legal Aid Ethics Hotline: 0800 153 728

  • Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

Wishing you the best,

Answered on June 11, 2021, 1:11 p.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.