The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in Gujarat received over 95,600 requests for Provident Fund (PF) withdrawals between March and May this year of which, 72 per cent of claims worth Rs 266 crore were settled. Officials say the withdrawals indicate people’s need for liquidity during the Covid pandemic.
Of the total claims made during these three months, 25,061 claims have been made by employees who filled in Form-19. This form is used for withdrawal of PF when an employee retires or quits his job. Of the 25,061 claims made, 19,200 Form 19 claims worth Rs 121.24 crore were settled by the EPFO.
“The reasons for filing of Form-19 are obvious. They are not in the job for two months. They would have resigned or left their jobs, while some of them would have retired after completion of 58 years. The bifurcation of the reasons for withdrawal is not available to us,” Manoranjan Kumar, Regional PF Commissioner-1, EPFO Regional Office, told The Indian Express.
When asked if the withdrawals amount to job losses due to layoff during the Covid lockdown, Kumar said, “The effects on the job market of disruption in industry during March and April due to Covid-19 will be seen only in June and July.” In other words, as per the mandatory condition for filing Form-19, an employee can apply for PF withdrawal only if he or she is unemployed for two months. “There are a number of people who have gone back to their villages. So the scenario will be clearer in the coming months,” he added.
During the last three months, claims settled for employees filing Form-19 fell to Rs 12.15 crore in April from Rs 67.69 crore in March, before scaling up to Rs 41.39 crore in May 2020. Officials said the drop in settlement of Form-19 fell in April 2020 as most of the EPFO staff were not able to come to the office due to the “lockdown effect.”
A large portion of the 96,500 claims were filed by employees filling up Form-31 which allows employees to do advance withdrawals for a variety of reasons including those for categories of Covid-19 and illness.
“About 75 per cent of the Form-31 claims (70,600) were for Covid-19 (a newly introduced category). There were several people who applied for both Covid-19 and for illness too. So in such cases, we have passed the Covid claims and rejected the ones filed for illness. So there is a difference between claims made and settled,” Kumar said. For instance, the EPFO received over 24,300 Form-19 claims in May, but only 13,900 were settled.
Form-31 can also be filed for withdrawals for education, house construction and others. “We are not encouraging other reasons as of now,” he said, adding that EPFO has been prioritising claims. There has been a steady rise of employees filing Form-31 in Gujarat.
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