I had discussed certain practical difficulties one may face while opting for a higher pension in my article
. Though I received a few queries, I was unable to provide any solution for want of something authentic. All these queries were related to the amount of the likely pension. I kept investigating the issue but, unfortunately, I have hit numerous roadblocks in getting proper clarity. Here are my findings.
There are two categories of pensioners—the retired ones and those who are in service. It is clear that while opting for a higher pension, a certain portion of the balance lying in the provident fund needs to be transferred to the pension fund. So, before doing this, the retirees have to think of their age, and consider the remaining life also. They have to transfer the additional amount to the pension fund and the difference between the present pension and the likely higher pension. They have to ensure that they are not going to lose too much while gaining a little higher pension.
Similarly, those who are in service have to consider their present age, the remaining number of years in service, the likely future income, liability towards family, and their capacity to increase their present contribution to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). The computation should be practical considering the above facts and then one should arrive at a decision whether to opt for higher pension or not.
Now, coming back to the concerns expressed by me in my previous article, I again surfed through the EPFO website but did not find anything encouraging. Under the ‘Press Release’ tab, January and February months contain certain events related to the EPFO’s “Reach Out” campaign. March contains a notification extending the time limit till 3 May 2023 for submitting applications for validation of joint options from employees.
The notification also states that “Online facility for submitting applications for validation of joint options to the employees who retired before 1 September 2014 and had exercised joint options before their retirement had been provided on the EPFO website till 3 March 2023.”
Despite considerable efforts, I could not find this option. However, as stated in my earlier article, the options are available on the member e-sewa portal. This press note in English is available in Hindi and Tamil, ignoring other Indian languages!
A newspaper report
, while covering the Kerala High Court order directing the EPFO to allow contribution towards higher pension without proof, expressed concern that the “EPF subscribers’ worries remain the same even though this order is a relief.” As per the report, the Court further directed that feasible alternative arrangements, including permission to submit hard copies of the options, should be made or granted if appropriate modifications cannot be made in the online facility. Necessary arrangements should be made within 10 days, the Court added.
In addition to this, the EPFO had also promised to issue a detailed explainer, which is still awaited. After going through this report, I called more than a dozen friends and got feedback that nothing was clear. In most of the cases, the HR departments themselves were not aware of what they were supposed to advise their employees on opting for a higher pension because no guiding factor—something like a ready reckoner—was available. In one case, a provident fund consultant himself was confused.
Since the EPFO offices have to adhere to the new deadline, they are busy with various paperwork related to the issue. Added to this, is the removal of certain restrictions for withdrawal (earlier available only for housing, education and medical purpose) of funds by the contributors. I understand that the number of withdrawals for small amounts has increased tremendously, thereby putting more pressure on the EPFO offices.
With the deadline of 3 May 2023 approaching fast, the EPFO is yet to issue guidelines regarding the computation of higher pension, a new mechanism for additional contribution, transfer of deposits from Employees’ Provident Fund to Employees’ Pension Scheme and related computation. As if this is not enough, issues related to records available with the EPFO have also popped up.
For example, if one has changed the company and joined another, has the earlier employer ensured the transfer of the record through the proper channel to enable the new employer to update his records? I came to know from one of my colleagues that his relative was facing a typical problem.
The company he worked for had four different wings which used to deposit the contribution separately with the EPFO. The person was transferred from one wing to another and, from there, to the third one. On retirement, he observed that the wings where he worked previously had not transferred his record to the next wing! He had then to do all the required paperwork and is now expecting the results. One more issue is related to the universal account number (UAN) which was not available before 2014. So, consolidating the data under this unique number is quite a challenge.
I would like to say here that it is not that all is bad. The EPFO portal
does provide some useful facilities for the employees after activating UAN
. The Services
tab provides for member passbook, eligibility, claim status, grievances redressal, pensioners’ portal, some downloads like contribution rate, wage ceiling, rate of interest, change in basic name and details, EPFO mobile app, etc.
There is also a missed call service on 9966044425 and an SMS service on 7738299899. So, do avail all these services online. Keep track of your contribution at regular intervals by checking the passbook. Escalate your grievances in time. If you are not computer-savvy, request others to help you in learning these facilities. The young generation in your family will also be of great help.
With this, let us hope that the issue will sail smoothly at the earliest.