To curb the menace of manipulation and weed out ghost accounts, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation has tightened the rules, making it compulsory for companies to list details of employees — both permanent and contractual — on the electronic challan-cum-return (ECR), and prescribed stiff penalties including imprisonment for employers unable or unwilling to furnish details of workers eligible for PF contribution.
While admitting that assessment of companies has become difficult considering migratory contract labourers, the EPFO said in a circular: “Establishment shall file returns and remittances of its employees (whether regular or contractual) through ECR.”
If the company has on its rolls employees who are deputed to other establishments on a contractual basis, then the EPF code number of the establishment to which the employee have been deputed has to be mentioned in the ECR. “There shall be no assessment without identifying individual members in whose account the fund is to be credited,” it said.
Though this clause has triggered speculations that the EPFO was being unduly soft on erring companies, a senior official clarified that it was incorporated to weed out “ghost accounts” and curb corruption. “Some companies don’t give details of employees’ names even though they deduct PF contribution from their salaries, and then transfer these funds to promoters’ relatives or other fictitious people,” the official said.
“If the employer is unable or unwilling to submit requisite details, action under Sections 14, 14A, 14AA, 14AB and 14AC of the EPFO Act shall be initiated,” the circular said, referring to imprisonment for a term of 2-5 years and a fine of Rs. 25,000.