Conducting a Sexual Harassment (POSH) inquiry amid the mandatory lockdown and work-from-home restrictions
Internal Committee (IC) members are proactively working on ways to encourage employees to reach out if they have any questions or if they observe or face sexual harassment.
There is a change like cases of sexual harassment in the workplace amid the Covid- 19 lockdowns. This is due to the shift in the working environment; new forms of interpersonal communication among clients, colleagues, vendors through instant communication mechanisms, and a lack of physical professional setup.
It is observed that the blur lines of this informal and foreign setup have led to misguided behavior and in some cases deliberate acts of sexual harassment on online platforms.
In our experience, here are some best practices to conduct an inclusive, just, and timely PoSH inquiry during the mandatory lockdown and work-from-home (WFH) restrictions.
Create awareness on how a Complainant can file a virtual complaint
The law states that a POSH complaint has to be filed by the Complainant in writing to the IC. The IC can review the company policy to incorporate different mediums of filing a complaint (telephonic, verbal, or email). The IC can assist in writing down the verbal complaint and on receiving the signed consent of the Complainant, the IC can begin the redressal procedure.
The IC needs to communicate these new inclusions to ensure that employees reach out for help.
Conducting a safe and inclusive inquiry process
In the present scenario, even courts are working through virtual mechanisms. While conducting the virtual inquiry, inform the Complainant, Witness, and Respondent in advance if you require a ‘video’ call. In the Indian household, there is diversity in our experience of ‘home’. Some employees may not have privacy (separate room) and many may not be open to sharing the view of their personal space with the IC.
Similarly, some employees may be primary caregivers and it is important to choose a time convenient to the individual who is being interviewed by the IC.
Timely communication with the Respondent and Complainant
Now more than ever, it is advisable to speed up the POSH inquiry process. The physical distance is likely to make the Complainant, Respondent, Witnesses, and leadership anxious about the case progress. The IC is advised to organize the proceeding promptly. It is also useful to communicate expected timelines to the parties involved.
Use the incident as feedback to prevent similar incidents
Given the changing nature of cases, the IC must use the lesson from registered cases to organize their communication on zero tolerance, update the company policy and spread awareness about the respectful and safe work environment the leadership is committed to.
Organizing check-in surveys to understand the experience of employees, sending regular mailers on the code of conduct to be adopted in the virtual space is useful to keep the conversation current.
Our Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) resource page has many useful tools for you to share with your employees.
About the Author and Serein
Faakirah Junaid Rafiquee is a lawyer and content designer .She is an experienced head of operations skilled in research, policy analysis, human rights, mental health, women rights, workshop moderation and document drafting. She is a strong operations professional with a Bachelor of Law focused in women rights and policy analysis. She has facilitated and designed workshops on issues like feminism, prevention of mental health, and childhood sexual abuse. She also has developed courses, modules and programmes on the same issues. Faakirah writes on women’s and mental health issues.
The materials on this web site have been prepared by Serein Inc. for informational purposes only and are not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. Reader should not rely or act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.
Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH training in India and the US). For more information on how to conduct a fair, timely and legally sound POSH enquiry process, reach out to email@example.com