The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) plans to hold a meeting of its decision-making body, the Central Board of Trustees (CBT), on October 31, 2023, ahead of its Foundation Day on November 1. Before that, it will hold an executive committee meeting on October 27. These meetings assume importance in the backdrop of demands for higher pensions.
CBT is expected to discuss the implementation of higher pension and standardisation of the EPFO’s operational procedures, among other issues, as per media reports.
The issue of higher pensions has drawn huge public attention of late. In November 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the employees’ provident fund (EPF) members for opting for higher pensions under the Employee Pension Scheme (EPS). Before that order, the EPFO allowed pension contributions with a wage ceiling of Rs 15,000; now, an eligible employee can opt for a higher pension based on the actual wage.
Eligible members were given time to opt for higher pensions by July 11, 2023, and for employers to upload the wage details by September 30. The employers’ deadline was later extended to December 31, 2023.
The updates on the implementation of higher pensions are expected to be the prime topic for discussion in the meeting. EPFO has received around 17.49 lakh applications for higher pensions that are under process, Business Line reported. After the requests are validated, and the employers upload wage details, the EPFO will have a clearer picture of the financial impact.
The meeting is also expected to discuss the EPFO employee work manual, which reportedly was updated last in the 1980s. The manuals are about the operational procedures of the department, such as audits, etc. The discussions are expected to revolve around standardising the operation.
Another issue for discussion is the need for more staff to handle the number of pension applications. The executive committee meeting is expected to address the issue of creating more posts. Additionally, the meeting may discuss improving, modernising, and enhancing the infrastructure of the EPFO offices. While this task is for the long haul, the committee may take up the issue, which includes the construction and repair of the office buildings. EPFO has 138 regional offices across the country.
In the CBT’s meeting in March this year, the board approved investing the proceeds of exchange-traded funds (ETF) in the permissible investment category subject to the prescribed limit. However, EPFO investment redemption proceeds into ETFs can further be discussed. EPFO added 16.99 lakh net members in August 2023.