Higher pension: EPFO trust members flag ‘confusion’ | The Financial Express

Higher pension: EPFO trust members flag ‘confusion’

Call for more comprehensive guidelines on new option

EPFO board raises concerns over “confusion” over higher pension
Trustees have also highlighted problems in accessing the EPFO portal (File)

With confusion at the ground level continuing on how to opt for higher pension under the Employees’ Pension Scheme, members of the EPFO’s Central Board of Trustees have started raising concerns over the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling and have called for more comprehensive guidelines.

Trustees have also noted with concern that they have not been consulted on any of these issues till now.

The issue is understood to have been raised at the Executive Committee meeting of the EPFO’s CBT last week. An upcoming meeting of the sub-committee on pension and Employees Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) scheme is also expected to see more discussions on the implementation. Members said the issue will be taken up at the full meeting of the CBT, which is the apex decision making body of the retirement fund manager.“The portal created by the EPFO for opting for higher pension has created a lot of confusion amongst subscribers. When members were getting the contribution deducted for higher pension why are they being asked for proof or certificate from employer? A de facto right to higher pension was created when they were allowed to give higher contribution and this cannot be denied,” said Sunkari Mallesham, national vice president, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, and member CBT.

While the issue of higher pension was not on the agenda of the EC, trade union leaders raised the issue at the meeting last week. Both BMS and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) have written to the EPFO’s Central Provident Fund Commissioner as well as the labour ministry highlighting problems in accessing the portal and challenges in providing permission document from employer detailing the higher contribution.

“Pensioners are finding it difficult to find the documents and many don’t even have such papers. After years of contributing money on higher salary, the EPFO suddenly wants proof from them. They are just trying to negate the Supreme Court ruling,” noted AK Padmanabhan of CITU and member of the CBT.

Michael Dias, a member of the CBT and a member of the subcommittee on pension said the committee would be meeting on March 15 and this issue is likely to be taken up. “Ever since the judgement of the Supreme Court on November 4, there has not been even one meeting of this committee of pension. We have not been informed of what is being done on the higher pension proposal,” he said.

The full meeting of the CBT is scheduled to be held on March 27 and 28. Following the Supreme Court ruling in November last year, the EPFO has come out with two circulars. In the first set of instructions issued in late December, it had said that pensioners who, as employees, had contributed to the EPS on salaries exceeding the then prevalent wage caps of `5,000 and `6,000 and had jointly applied with their employers for such a contribution, but whose request was declined by the PF authorities, could apply digitally or online. The last date of submission for this was March 4.

On February 20, it had issued a second circular listing out the application procedure for employees and employers who had contributed on salary exceeding the prevalent wage ceiling of `5,000 or `6,500 per month and did not exercise the joint option and were members before September 1, 2014 and continued to be members would be able to use the joint option for higher pension. The online link was provided on February 26. Experts also noted that the guidelines are not adequate and the EPFO should a consider comprehensive and hassle-free mechanism to help subscribers.

Sanjeev Kumar, Partner, Luthra and Luthra Law Offices India said, “It seems that the website or link has been programmed in a manner that it results in denying the benefits of the Judgment to the eligible employees and members and is thus restrictive and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Judgment. Legally speaking, if such issues are brought to the notice of the Supreme Court, it may result in Supreme Court issuing strict directions /guidelines to EPFO for effective implementation of its directions in the Judgment of November 2022.”

Sanket Jain, Partner, Pioneer Legal, also said there still exists confusion amongst employees on whether the latest option has to be exercised if they have already exercised the earlier option and they face technical difficulties on the portal. “EPFO has also not clarified whether the additional payout of 1.16% will have to be borne by the subscribers and this adds to their confusion. Another issue is what happens to members who had left the scheme and joined later,” he said.

On a release on March 4, the EPFO had however said that it has received nearly 9,000 applications for higher pension under the joint option on the online facility, the deadline for which is May 3. Additionally, it had also received 91,258 online applications by March 4 related to retired members of the EPS (prior to September 1, 2014 and whose options were not considered earlier).

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First published on: 14-03-2023 at 00:15 IST
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