Why is it important to spread awareness about PoSH?
A safe workplace is the basic right of every employee. Employees need to know,
- What is sexual harassment
- How to seek help if they face sexual harassment
- Who to report to if they face or observe sexual harassment
- What are the rights of the employee
A survey shows that 75% of sexual harassment cases in the workplace are unreported. This statistic shows that organizations need to do a better job in cultivating a culture to show that it’s encouraged to file sexual harassment complaints.
In 2013, the Government of India enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, also called the POSH Act.
The Act holds an organization and the employer legally responsible for taking measures to prevent incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace. One of the measures to ensure a safe workplace is through creating avenues for POSH awareness among all the employees in the organization. A clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities allows them to understand the structures that have been created and how to access them. The awareness also helps them to understand what actions would be taken by the authority if the PoSH law is violated.
The loss of productivity alone costs $1,053 per victim. Deloitte breaks this down further in its report.
US Supreme Court has stated that “ for a company to reduce its liability for harassment claims, it must train employees and supervisors, require employees to report incidents of harassment, thoroughly investigate all reports, and take corrective action when necessary. Workplace and sexual harassment training are therefore necessary for an affirmative defense.”
These measures make an employee trust the leadership and build a company culture where employees experience psychological safety.
People will stay longer in a company where they feel physically and emotionally safe.
Who constitutes the PoSH Internal Committee?
The Internal committee is responsible for the prevention, prohibition, and redressal of sexual harassment in the workplace. Under the act, an employer is required to set up this grievance redressal mechanism called the Internal committee at each office, branch, or unit of an organization that has an employee headcount of 10 or more employees. The committee is institutionalized to hear complaints and grievances about incidents of sexual harassment. Along with that, it is constituted to inquire into the grievance and make recommendations towards the complaints brought in front of it.
- The IC is made up of 4 internal members and 1 external member
- It is chaired by the Presiding Officer who is the senior most female employee in the company
- More than 50% of the committee members have to be female
The Internal Complaints Committee plays an important role in the functioning of the provisions of the Act, the main functions of the Internal Complaints Committee are:
- Implementation of the Internal Complaints Committee Policy relating to the prevention of sexual harassment.
- Resolving complaints by the aggrieved based on the guidelines of the Internal Complaints Committee Policy.
- Recommending actions to be taken by the Employer.
- As per Section 11(3) the Internal Complaints Committee enjoys the powers same as that of a Civil Court and therefore:
- It is empowered to initiate an inquiry into a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace according to the Internal Complaints Committee Policy.
- IC has the power to summon witnesses and parties to state the committee.
- It enjoys the discretion of summoning evidence to be examined if it may be deemed necessary to do so by the members of the Committee.
How can companies implement PoSH?
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act and Rules (commonly called the POSH Act and Rules) was enacted by the Government of India in the year 2013 to protect women against sexual harassment in the workplace.
The POSH Act mandates all employers to comply with a set of measures to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment at the workplace.
POSH Act is to protect not only women employees in the workplace but also all women in the workplace. This means an employer has the responsibility to protect all women who enter his/her workplace. This can be an employee, client, visitor, vendor, intern, trainee, or probationer. She has the right to a safe working environment. According to the law, the measures that ensure POSH Compliance must be implemented even if the organization has no female employees.
The Petitioner wrote a letter highlighting several cases of sexual harassment and describing that the Vishaka guidelines were not effectively implemented in the country.
The Supreme Court issued the following directions:
State governments should make sure that there are sufficient complaint committees made within each state to hear every single complaint that is made and also these committees should be headed by a woman.
Appropriate mechanisms should be created by the state authorities to make sure that effective implementation of the Vishaka guidelines is taking place.
It shall be the duty of the Bar Council of India to make sure that all the bar associations in the country and individuals registered with the State Bar Councils adhere to the Vishaka guidelines.
In the case of non-compliance to the Vishaka guidelines, it would be open for the aggrieved individuals to approach the High Court of the concerned state.
According to the PoSH Act, all companies with more than 10 employees are expected to have the following in place
- A company PoSH policy written under the Act
- Appoint an Internal Committee (IC) with 1 external member
- Display the policy and IC contact information on the office notice board
- Conduct an awareness training for all employees every year between January to December
- Conduct a capacity-building session for all IC members every year between January to December
- File the annual report to the Deputy Officer at the end of every year