The wait for a higher pension under the Wage Earners’ Pension Scheme may be longer than expected, as the Wage Earners’ Insurance Fund (EPFO) has not prepared a clear time frame for when it will be implemented.
The issue is believed to have been raised in the recent meeting of a sub-committee of EPFO’s Central Board of Trustees (CBT). Members of the Sub-Committee on Pension Implementation and Employees’ Defined Benefit Insurance, in a meeting on March 15, are believed to have asked the EPFO about the status of the implementation of higher pension, based on a Supreme Court judgment, and expressed concern over the “piecemeal” manner in which it was being done on.
EPFO has set 3 May as the deadline for submitting applications for the option of a higher pension under EPS. After this, it plans to examine all applications individually before informing subscribers of their eligibility.
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“Based on the discussion with EPFO, it does not appear that the implementation of the higher pension will take place in the near future. The process can take months at this rate,” said Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, general secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, and a member of the CBT, who attended the sub-committee meeting.
At present, EPFO has only provided an online facility to submit option for higher pension. It will have to state the method of depositing such funds from the subscribers. Furthermore, it is also not clear what the financial consequences of the higher payout would be and how it would be financed. EPFO’s Revised Estimates (RE) for 2022-23 and Budget Estimates for 2023-24 also do not seem to reflect this. The estimates will be approved by the CBT at the meeting on 27 and 28 March.
The RE for 2022-23 for the Employees’ Pension Scheme has been maintained at the BE level of Rs 8,485 crore. The budget allocation for 2023-24 has been increased by 8% to Rs 9,167 crore.
Over 0.12 million applications and forms for joint election had been submitted on EPFO’s online portal as of March 9, Minister of State for Labor and Employment Rameshwar Teli informed the Rajya Sabha on March 16. “The total number of beneficiaries in accordance with the directions given in the Supreme Court judgment of November 11, 2022 will depend on the employees who exercise common option and the number of such employees who are eligible. The amount of monthly pension payment for such retirees will depend of the number of eligible members availing the option of pension on higher salary,” he said in response to a question.
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After the Supreme Court verdict, EPFO has come out with two circulars. It has sought online applications from pensioners who retired before September 1, 2014 and had availed joint option to deposit into pension fund on salary exceeding the salary cap before their retirement but whose joint options were rejected by EPFO. It has also sought online joint options from employees who were in service before September 1, 2014 and continued to be in service thereafter as well, but who could not exercise the joint option.