EPFO To Launch Online Joint Option Form Soon For Higher EPS Pension: Deadline Looming For Eligible Employees

The Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) has said that it will soon have a way for employees and their employers to declare online that they want higher pensions. This will be done through the EPFO portal. The action follows the Supreme Court’s decision on November 4, 2022, and is in accordance with the direction contained in paragraphs 44(iii) and (iv) read with paragraph 44(v) of the judgment. This online facility for filing a joint option is for employees who were in service before 01.09.2014 and continued to be in service on or after 01.09.2014. Still, it could not exercise the common option under the erstwhile proviso to para 11(3) of EPS-1995.

One of the crucial documents required to be submitted by an employee to opt for a higher pension under the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS) 1995 is the joint option form. This form should contain a declaration from both the employer and employee for a higher contribution towards EPS equal to 8.33% of the actual wages per month in the future.

The EPFO has set the last date to submit the application for a higher pension under the EPS as March 3, 2023, which is just a week away. On February 20, 2023, the EPFO issued guidelines on the eligibility for and methods of applying for a higher pension for existing employees. However, with only seven days left before the deadline, many eligible employees may find it challenging to gather the required documents and understand the requirements.

The EPFO circular issued on February 20, states that the EPF commissioner will specify the form and method for eligible employees to submit the application. Furthermore, an online window is yet to be provided to submit the request for a higher pension. Eligible employees have to submit documents, such as an undertaking to transfer funds from the provident fund to the pension fund, proof of the employer’s share in the provident fund on higher wages exceeding the prevalent wage ceiling of Rs 5,000 or Rs 6,500, and the joint option form.

With only a few days left before the deadline and a long list of documents to be gathered for submission, many employees would prefer an extension of the deadline. In this regard, several experts have suggested extending the last date to apply for a higher pension under the EPS. Anshul Prakash, Partner, Employment Labour & Benefits, Khaitan & Co, stated that the EPFO’s approach has been lacking promptness in terms of necessary guidance on the next steps for the beneficiaries. The multiple circulars beginning in December 2022 have led to confusion, and the current deadline appears challenging to meet in the absence of general clarity for the beneficiaries. However, the deadline was set by the Supreme Court, and it would be difficult to have the EPFO extend it unless the SC intervenes on any further application filed by concerned beneficiaries.

Aarti Raote, Partner, Deloitte India, said that employers had been awaiting clarification and guidance from the EPFO, which came as late as February 20. With the deadline being March 3, eligible employees are fighting against time to ensure the application is made on time. There are still others who have questions, and hence the employees may ask for an extension of the period to avail of the benefit.

The EPFO’s announcement to provide an online facility for employees to file a declaration for higher pensions jointly with their employers is a welcome move. However, with only a week left before the deadline, eligible employees may face challenges in gathering the required documents and understanding the requirements.

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