Best practices to set up the Internal Committee (IC) when operations are spread across locations
According to The Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (commonly known as POSH) it is a legal obligation for all organizations with 10 or more employees to set up an Internal Complaints Committee.
Section 4(1)of the Act states that 1) Every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee”: Provided that where the offices or administrative units of the workplace are located at different places or divisional or sub-divisional level, the Internal Committee shall be constituted at all administrative units or offices.
Today, many companies, corporations and organizations are spread across various locations. According to the As per Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH) Act, the establishment of an IC is mandatory for each of the offices and units. Employers who have multiple offices and administrative offices have to constitute the committee at each of the locations. This makes the redressal process accessible and increases accountability in organisations with multiple structures.
Owing to the size and multiple structures in an organization that is spread across locations, managing an IC structure can be difficult, however a consistent central procedure that is followed across locations can result in effective management.
The creation of Apex committee
Companies which are spread across locations often appoint an additional supervisory and centralized committee called an Apex committee. The law is silent on the creation of such a committee however the Ministry of Human Resources Department has allowed relaxations, such as having a centralized committee with local members being co-opted when holding an inquiry. As long as in no event should any office or unit lack recourse of a designated IC. This is often done as a measure to deliver effective implementation of a centralized POSH policy model across it’s locations.
An Apex Committee is a centralized redressal committee at corporate level constituted by the executive management. The Apex committee works closely with all the IC’s in terms of reviewing and monitoring their functioning with fairness, justice of the inquiry process and reducing the time consuming process of going into trial.
The committee might review an investigation/inquiry of proceedings held by the IC’s. The Apex committee stands as the safeguard of fairness of the redressal process. It’s important to understand that the Apex committee doesn’t take complaints in regards to POSH or adjudicate them. It simply manages, reviews and effectively works with all the IC’S present in the organisation’s structure. As under the law only the IC that is constituted has the quasi-judicial power.
If any party is not happy with the redressal process, they can reach the Apex committee for review of the inquiry or the resolution. The Apex committee then reviews the proceedings and gives orders that it deems fit. It is important to note that the Apex cannot reverse the order or act as an appellate authority, it can give orders of review of inquiry, recomposition of the committee if it feels biased in the judgement etc. If still the aggrieved party is not satisfied they can approach courts, tribunals in appeal.
Appointing a SPOC at the local locations
The creation of an IC is important at a workplace with a workforce of 10 or more employees. However employees with factories or warehouses have now set up a SPOC at every location,region, place. The SPOC acts as an information-assistance-agent for the region/location/place.
The role of a SPOC is that of assistance in cases where the complainant doesn’t directly go to the IC. However if the SPOC feels that the assistance sought is beyond its capacity the same shall be reported to IC as soon as possible. The SPOC reports all matters concerning sexual harassment to IC and helps in the implementation of the policy matters at localised locations and provides support to the complainant. Further the SPOC can be utilized by the IC for inquiry, dissemination and organizing the awareness programmes. It works as a support structure for the implementation of POSH.
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 website 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.