Source | The Indian Express
After remaining in the news mostly for wrong reasons this year, retirement fund body EPFO is looking to cross the digital Rubicon by way of providing a host of online services to its nearly 4 crore subscribers, including electronic settlement of PF claims. The idea is to increase ease of doing business for over 6 lakh employers covered under the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
“As part of its commitment to evolve into one of the best social security organisations, the coming 2017 will see introduction of many more online conveniences, including the ethos of Digital India and best practices that help improve the ease to do business in the country,” EPFO Central Provident Fund Commissioner V P Joy told PTI.
“The database of EPFO will see full consolidation through a centralised platform. This will facilitate real-time updation of records and member balances… simplify processes for employers and prepare EPFO to provide online services more efficiently that will culminate in online submission of all types of claims (PF withdrawal and pension fixation).”
Talking about conveniences for the stakeholders in 2016, Joy said EPFO will try to cover all eligible workers under the social security net. At present, subscribers who wish to settle their accounts with EPFO are required to apply manually.
For settling online claims, the subscribers will have to activate their Universal Account Numbers (portable PF) which are seeded with KYC details, including bank accounts, Aadhaar and permanent account number.
There is more. EPFO will try to reduce human interface with employers by increasing the use of digital compliance to shore up efficiency, transparency and accountability.
That said, 2016 was not a very good year for EPFO as it was marred by many controversies for reasons like putting restrictions on PF withdrawals and its reported tussle with the finance ministry over fixing interest rate on deposits for the previous fiscal.
Earlier in the year, EPFO decided to put restrictions on PF withdrawals to avoid capital erosion and boost savings by the members. But it backfired and led to widespread protest by workers that even turned violent in some parts of the country.
In the beginning of April, EPFO had to defer the decision till April 30 which had restricted 100 per cent withdrawal of provident fund by members after being without job for more than two months, among others.
As per the scheme, the subscribers who are out of job for more than two months can file for full and final settlement of provident fund.
EPFO also amended the EPF Scheme, 1952, to tighten the various norms for withdrawal of provident fund, including increasing the age limit for filing such claims by retiring employees to 58 years, from 54 years.
It was also stipulated that the requirement of two months of unemployment will not apply in cases of women members resigning from the services for the purpose of getting married or on account of pregnancy or child birth.