Q: Does the law say that my employer must pay me a bonus?

I got a loan from the bank because I thought I would get a thirteenth cheque. But my employer didn’t pay me a Christmas bonus. Doesn’t the law say that my employer must pay me a bonus?

original employement contracts


To start off with, you need to understand that there is no legal requirement in South African labour law for an employer to pay its staff any annual bonuses or thirteenth cheques.

The broad question here is: Are companies required to pay staff an annual bonus or 13th cheque? In order to answer this question you would need to look in the company’s employment documents.

  • Does your employment contract say anything about your right to a bonus? And has there been any subsequent update in your remuneration or package that deals with any entitlement to a bonus or 13th cheque? Eg. Promotion letters or increase letters.
  • What do your employer’s official employment policies and procedures say about the payment of bonuses and thirteenth cheques?
  • Is there any collective agreement in place that deals with bonus payments or 13th cheques?

Your employer would need to pay bonuses or thirteenth cheques in accordance with whatever agreement or arrangement has been reached and is recorded in these documents.

If these documents are silent on the matter, you would not ordinarily be entitled to a bonus or thirteenth cheque…. Unless your employer has historically paid Christmas bonuses to you on a regular basis. In this instance you may have a claim on the basis that the payment of a Christmas bonus is a company practice. By unilaterally changing the practice without consulting with its staff the company’s actions could constitute an unfair labour practice. But ensure that you consult a labour specialist on your specific situation before taking any further action!

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements