All eligible members can opt and apply jointly with their employers for higher pension till May 3, 2023, at the unified members' portal of the retirement fund body EPFO.
Earlier, there were apprehensions that March 3, 2023, is the last date for opting for a higher pension.
The URL on the EPFO unified members' portal activated recently shows clearly that the last date for availing of the option of a higher pension is May 3, 2023.
Earlier, the Supreme Court in its order on November 4, 2022, had mandated the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to provide four months to all eligible members to opt for higher pensions.
The four-month period for opting for a higher pension was to end on March 3, 2023, in view of the apex court order. Thus, there were apprehensions among members that the deadline will end on March 3, 2023.
Last week, EPFO came out with a procedure to enable subscribers and their employers to jointly apply for higher pensions under the Employees' Pension Scheme (EPS).
In November 2022, the Supreme Court upheld the Employees' Pension (Amendment) Scheme 2014. The EPS amendment of August 22, 2014, had raised the pensionable salary cap to Rs 15,000 a month from Rs 6,500 a month and allowed members along with their employers to contribute 8.33 per cent of their actual salaries (if it exceeded the cap) towards EPS.
In an office order, EPFO had provided for dealing with the ''Joint Option Form'' by field offices of the body. EPFO stated that "a facility will be provided for which URL (unique resource location) will be informed shortly. Once received, the regional PF commissioner shall put an adequate notice on the notice board and banners for wider public information".
It provided that each application will be registered, and digitally logged and the receipt number will be provided to the applicant. It further stated that the officer in-charge of the regional provident fund office concerned shall examine each case of a joint option on a higher salary and intimate the decision to the applicant through e-mail/post and later through SMS also.
It also provided that any grievance by the applicant can be registered on EPFiGMS (grievance portal) after submission of his/her joint option form and payment of due contributions if any.
The order stated that these directions are being issued in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court on November 4, 2022. EPFO has asked its field offices to provide an option for higher pensions to eligible subscribers in accordance with the Supreme Court order.
According to the EPFO circular on December 29, 2022, the central government has directed to implement the directions in order. The apex court had given all EPS members, as on September 1, 2014, six months to opt for the amended scheme.
The apex court in its order gave four more months to eligible subscribers to opt for higher pension under EPS-95.
The court had also struck down the requirement in the 2014 amendments mandating employee contribution of 1.16 per cent of the salary exceeding Rs 15,000 per month. This will facilitate the subscribers to contribute higher to the scheme and get enhanced benefits accordingly.
The EPFO circular also provided for the higher pension option for those eligible subscribers who either contributed on actual wages higher than Rs 5,000 or Rs 6,500 per month prevalent threshold pensionable salary or exercised their option for higher pension or their request for higher pension was declined by EPFO authorities before the amendment to EPS-95 in 2014.
The eligible subscribers would have to apply jointly with their employer for the enhanced benefit in the application form prescribed by the commissioner and all other required documents like joint declaration etc.