MANY people don’t assign much importance to their date of birth except when it comes to the zodiac. Friends and relatives continue extending felicitations on birthdays whether they are real or fake. Some progressive employers even allow a day off for their employees to celebrate their birthday.
There are, unfortunately, no statistics available to determine the ratio of real or fake dates of birth. The practice by parents to reduce the age of their children is not an uncommon one; parents of boys tend to reduce their offspring’s age in order to prolong their job tenures while those of girls do so to extend their daughter’s ‘marriageable’ age.
Prior to the inclusion of one’s date of birth in our national identity cards, which were introduced in the mid-1970s, the only way to tell someone’s age accurately was to check their educational certificates. The date of birth was mentioned in the school-leaving and matriculation certificates. However, there was no guarantee as to their authenticity. The date of birth of children still continues to be registered by municipal committees as disclosed to them by the reporting person. Based on this information, the dates of birth are now formalised by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).
There is no law prescribing the age for retirement from employment in the industrial and commercial establishments. Every company has to make its own rules prescribing the age at which an employee will retire from service. Most companies fix the age of 60 years for men as the age of retirement, while it may be less than 60 years for its female employees. However, this trend of discrimination is gradually being eliminated in workplaces.
Reducing ages on paper is a common practice in Pakistan.
The Employees Old-Age Benefits Act, 1976, fixes the age of eligibility for pension as 60 years in the case of men and 55 years for women, provided that the monthly contribution on their behalf has been paid by the employers to the EOBI for a period of at least 15 years.
When someone is offered employment by an organisation they have to fill in a number of documents in which they have to mention their date of birth. The recruits mention this date in forms such as application for employment, the membership of schemes such as provident fund, gratuity, social security and pension, and so on. However, seldom does one think while filling out these forms, that several decades later their retirement too would be finalised based on the same information.
When the time comes and retirement looms, some employees are horrified to imagine the prospects of living without a salary. At this stage, they often start scheming to get a few more years of employment beyond the stipulated date of retirement through manipulation of their dates of birth and trying to persuade their employers to accept the same. Many don’t even hesitate to obtain fake certificates and false documents that are made showing their age reduced by two to three years.
Having worked in the human resources for a number of years, I encountered many cases in which the retiring employees made desperate attempts to change their dates of birth. A driver, who had been served his retirement notice, brought an order from a civil court reducing his age by three years based on a certificate issued by the headmaster of a primary school in rural Sindh. The court passed a detailed judgement without making the organisation concerned a party to the case although the latter was adversely affected by the decision. The court only summoned an official from Nadra, directing him to change the petitioner’s date of birth in his identity card.
For such eventualities, there is a landmark judgement that was issued by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Feb 28, 2014, ruling that the date of birth of the petitioner could not be changed nearer to the date of his retirement, which was June 5, 2013.
The petitioner had joined the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd on Oct 28, 1985, and had submitted numerous documents to the company that showed his date of birth as June 6, 1953, which he now wanted to be changed to June 11, 1956. The petitioner had based his revised date of birth on certificates issued by the executive district officer (education), Larkana, and a surgeon. The court had held that the medical certificate issued by a surgeon would not be of any significance if the surgeon had not formed his opinion on the basis of radiological reports.
While joining any organisation, the employees should keep in mind that the date of birth which they disclose should be supported by valid documents as it is seldom changed by the companies when they retire. It could affect their way of life later on.
The writer is an industrial relations professional and teaches at IBA.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2020