Union Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav on Thursday clarified that employees and pensioners covered under the Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS) of 1995, “are not restricted from filing application forms/ joint options [for higher Provident Fund (PF) pension],” in the absence of the requirement of permission under paragraph 26(6) of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme, 1952.
The paragraph in question pertains to allowing employees to make PF contributions beyond the statutory ceiling of ₹15,000 of their pay per month and enabling them to receive benefits accordingly.
The requirement, as indicated on the portal of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) while applying for higher pension, has been bothering employees, pensioners and employers alike as this stipulation, according to the employees and employers, was never made known to them earlier. As per the portal, applicants had to submit documents to establish that they had got permissions under the para 26(6) when the ceiling was ₹5,000 (up to May 31, 2001) and ₹6,500 (up to August 31, 2014).
The process of applying for higher PF pension commenced after the EPFO issued a circular in late February, which was a fallout of the Supreme Court’s judgment of November 2022. The judgment, applicable to those employees who were in service as on September 1, 2014 and continued to be so after the date, had permitted them to apply for higher PF pension under paragraphs 11(3) and 11 (4) of the EPS Rules, if they had not sought higher pension earlier.
Replying to a set of questions raised by John Brittas, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP from Kerala, regarding the criticism on the process of applying for higher pension, the Union Minister informed the Rajya Sabha that the joint option under paragraph 26(6) of the EPF Scheme “is a requirement which predates the EPS”, and had been required as per provisions of the EPF Scheme, 1952.
The Minister maintained that in the portal, “the process for submission of joint options [to be filed by the employees along with their employers] for higher pension is simple and easy to understand and contains simple requirements” as per the provisions of EPF and EPS. “For [the] convenience of members and pensioners,” the EPFO had “directed its field offices” located all over the country for assisting the applicants in filing the online forms. The last date for submitting the forms is May 3.
Mr. Yadav added that in December 2022, the EPFO called for online applications from pensioners who retired before September 1, 2014 and had exercised the joint option for contributing to the pension fund on salary exceeding the wage ceiling before their retirement but whose joint options were rejected by the EPFO on account of the cut-off date. The last date for submitting the applications had been extended up to May 3.