Following a tussle between employees and employers regarding the linking of Aadhaar number with provident fund (PF) accounts, a group of technology and back end companies has turned to the government seeking help on the clarification of norms related to Aadhaar linking with PF accounts.
In March 2018, a data breach through Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) also came to light via a letter circulated on Twitter. The letter titled ‘Secret’, which was addressed to the CEO of Common Service Centre, claimed that hackers exploited vulnerabilities through a government’s online website built to link Aadhar with PF account to steal data. This data breach is expected to have discouraged the employees to provide Aadhaar details to EPFO.
Meanwhile, the employees have also resorted to citing the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) that came out in September 2018. The SC bench while upholding the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, had then said that Aadhaar can’t be made mandatory for the delivery of many public services including pension.
However, EPFO claims that they are binding to the November 2018 notification of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI). While speaking to ET, additional central PF commissioner Pankaj Raman, EPFO, said that UIDAI’s notice enables the use of Aadhaar-based authentication for employee PF accounts.
The companies now demand clear instructions on how they can implement the EPFO mandate to link the Aadhaar number with individual PF accounts.
How The Companies Are Taking Forward This Issue?
In a meeting, last week, an official of Hewlett Packard (HP) raised the issue to Karnataka’s state labour minister that the company was facing difficulties in implementing EPFO’s mandate. “Many of our employees are citing the SC judgment that said any such linking is optional,” he added.
The HP executive also said that the EPFO, on the other hand, wants us to collect the Aadhaar. “We are in a fix. This is happening across companies,” he added.
After listening to the concerns of these companies, the minister has assured that he would raise the issue to the attention of the Union Labour Ministry as the PF department does not come under the jurisdiction of the state government. “We have decided to write to the Union Labour Ministry and draw its attention to the problem tech sector employers are facing in Bengaluru,” he said.
Moreover, employees working in companies such as JP Morgan and Oracle shared that their organisations keep sending them reminders to link their Aadhaar numbers with their PF accounts.
The employees of these tech companies, speaking to ET, also revealed that they have received warnings from their companies. “The companies are planning to take disciplinary action against us if we do not link our Aadhaar numbers with PF accounts,” employees said, as reported.
A software professional, Elisha Ebenezer is also challenging the notification which has mandated linking of Aadhaar to Universal Account Number (UAN) for availing pension and provident fund benefits in the Madras High Court. He further believes that EPFO’s notification is unconstitutional and against SC directives.
Ebenezer also shared that his employer is unable to contribute to his PF account as the EPFO isn’t allowing the company from creating a PF account in the absence of Aadhaar.
EPFO Pushing For Aadhaar Linkage
While companies on their part are trying to ease out things for its employees, EPFO suggests that they would introduce a facility that will facilitate employees to create the universal account number (UAN) on their own and link it with the Aadhaar. “This will remove apprehensions among employees as they do not have to part with the Aadhaar number,” an EPFO official told ET.
The official on the condition of anonymity further added that EPFO does not keep a database of Aadhaar numbers but only uses the number to authenticate credentials of the employees on the UIDAI database.
Moreover, EPFO also has been troubling these companies for not sharing Aadhaar details of their employees. Earlier this year, it criticised JP Morgan for not sharing the Aadhaar and bank details of its employees with them.
However, the Bombay High Court, last month, granted JP Morgan with an interim relief from the prosecution. Following the judgement, the company was seeking to quash the criminal complaint filed against it by the EPFO.