Most of the studies show having diversity at workplace not only improves work culture but also makes company more productive and profitable. The challenge is how to make workplace inclusive and diverse. There is conscious efforts required to achieve this. The main challenge faced in improving gender diversity is that there are more and more women who are dropping after joining workplaces. The fact is social norms and also real or perception of feeling of insecurity at workplaces are two main reasons. To help ensure women a safe and healthy work environment, the Government of India has put in place The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 ("Sexual Harassment Act").
The fact that there are more females getting dropped out of workplace and many not even considering joining , owing to insecurity perception at workplace, has translated in far from equal gender ratio. This act has helped in creating a concrete platform for female employees to report harassment incidents more openly. Ever since its inception, sexual harassment at the workplace is legally a crime. The act prompted companies to set up Internal Committees (IC) to comply with the requirements mandated by the law. However, as per the FICCI-EY report 36% of Indian companies and 25 percent of MNCs had not arranged for an IC in their organizations.
Here is where our team comes into the picture. We, at Open Hand Solutions, help prepare your organization for a safe and positive work environment for your employees At OHS, we lay down to register a checklist of compliances of the organization. These include a properly constituted IC, providing training in order to create awareness amongst employees, orientation and skill building for the IC, and displaying the consequences of sexual harassment through posters and signage at the workplace, to name a few.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT
INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE
The act mandates an employer to set up an 'Internal Complaints Committee' (ICC) at every office or branch of an organization employing at least 10 employees or more. In case your organization have less than 10 employees, the government has set up a 'Local Complaints Committees' (LCC) at the district level to investigate complaints regarding sexual harassment.
DEFINING EXTENDED WORKPLACE
In addition to the office of the employer or employee, any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by the employer for the purpose of commuting to and from the place of employment, will also constitute a work place. social settings endorsed or financed by the employer are also considered a workplace under POSH law.
The act goes beyond protecting the working female employees of the organization, a client or a customer or a visitor can easily claim the protection under this act. The definition of employee is vast and envelops:
- Temporary and ad hoc employees
- Contract workers, apprentices, trainees and probationers.
- Individuals who are engaged on daily wage basis and voluntary basis.
HOW IS ICC CONSTITUTED
It is imperative to include a senior level female employee as the chairperson, also known as the Presiding officer. The sole purpose of the Presiding officer being a female is the easily approachability by the aggrieved employees. Apart from that, at least two members should belong from the organization. To have an unbiased outlook, an external member is always included as a member of ICC.
ELUCIDATING ‘SEXUAL HARASSMENT’ UNDER PoSH
The Act describes sexual harassment quite vastly, including ‘quid pro quo’ harassment, which easily understandable as returning favours. Example like promises made for advancement in career in exchange for sexual favours. Sexual harassment does not have to involve just physical contact but also enfolds sexual remarks or comments, sexually explicit or obscene pictures and inappropriate advances which are made directly or via any other social networking sites.
RESPOSIBILITIES OF AN EMPLOYEER UNDER PoSH
It lies on the shoulder of an employer to ensure safe and healthy work environment, certain measures in this aspect includes:
- Publication of PoSH- related policies
- Sensitizing the employees and delivering awareness training and workshops.
- Details of ICC or LCC
- Awareness on external member.
- Due training of ICC committee in handling investigations and sensitive cases.
- Displays of the posters along with contact email or number where employees can report in confidence.
ADDRESSING PoSH- COMPLAINTS
- Filing Complaints: The victim can directly file the complaint with ICC, in writing, within 90 days of the date of the alleged incident of sexual harassment. This deadline can be extended stating the valid reason what restricted the victim to lodge the complaint on time. Verbal complaints cannot be ignored but ICC would require the complaint in writing for them to act.
- Inquiry: It is the duty of ICC to complete investigation process and give recommendations within 90 days of receiving the complaint.
- Documentation of Report: The IC must submit the full report to the employer in the time span of 10 days of completion of the inquiry. Implementation of recommendations: The employer must implement the recommendations suggested in the report prepared by the IC within 60 days of receipt.
- Appeals: If the aggrieved employee is still unsatisfied she/he can appeal. All appeals must take place within 90 days of the recommendations being suggested.
ENSURE YOUR ORGANIZATION IS PoSH-COMPLIANT
It is has now become vital for every organization to have a PoSH policy in place for the betterment of their employees. Is your organization PoSH-ready? For any PoSH related queries or workshop programs, feel free to contact us for free consultation. We are delighted to announce our successful expertise on implementation of PoSH-act covering 7500+ employees of 40+ organizations so far. We have delivered sessions and sensitized employees from MNCs, government sector, start-up, educational institute and small to medium sized industries (SME) covering sectors such as IT-ITES, manufacturing, financial, educational, real- estate and construction.