The main proposal for amendments in the Employees’ Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act’ 1952 are to bring the threshold of coverage from 20 employees to 10 employees. This will ensure a wider coverage and extension of social security benefits to hitherto uncovered areas. The ‘Schedule of Industries’ provided in the Act has already grown to more than 182 industries. The Government proposes to do away with the ‘Schedule of Industries’ and come up with a ‘Negative List’. It is also proposed to reduce the size of the CBT to make it an active decision making body. In order to remove the discretion, a limit of 5 years has been proposed in regard to assessment of dues against the establishment. However, to reduce the problems arising out of ex-parte assessments etc., a new appellate provision by appointment of Appellate Officer has also been proposed. To avoid protracted litigation, provisions for compounding of offences in deserving cases has been introduced. Uniformity in regard definitions of ‘Wages’ is proposed to be introduced in line with the ESI Act. The Government of India is also contemplating promulgation of a comprehensive Labour Code on Social Security to bring together all legislations relating to social security.
The representatives of prominent trade unions like CITU, AITUC, INTUC, BMC, AICCTU, HMS and TUCC attended the meeting. Representatives of important employers’ associations like FICCI, CII, CIE, PHDCCI, ASSOCHAM etc. attended the consultations. Officers from Ministry of Labour & Employment and other Ministries of Central Government and NITI Aayog were also present.
The Unions and Associations welcomed the Government’s proposal to widen the coverage of EPF & simplification of procedures required for compliance. There was some disagreement regarding reduction in the size of CBT both from Employers’ and Employees’ side.
The Minister responding to suggestions from participants, stated that number of members of CBT will not be reduced and there will be no restriction on the number of terms of members of Central Board of Trustees. He also stressed the need to reduce the threshold limit for application of the EPF & MP Act’ 1952 to 10 employees from the existing 20 employees. He also announced that cards will be provided to unorganized sector workers, one house will be provided to every family of the contributory member. He also promised that Bill for Social Security for Unorganised Sector workers will be brought in. Concluding the discussion, he stated that all the suggestions received during the consultation will be considered while finalizing the Bill.