The key elements to look into while speaking about Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act, 2013 are as below:
- Power, misused by predatory men
- Impunity, as those who could call a halt do not
- Silence, as witnesses look away and victims fear that speaking up will harm their careers
- Strong guidelines and awareness on the consequences of false allegations, to avoid anyone from misusing this policy
If firms are serious about stopping harassment, they will need to tackle all four of the above aspects.
The Authorities prescribed under the Act are as below
- Internal Complaints Committee (ICCs) in each office
- Management of a Company (in setting up ICC and other processes)
- District Officer to be appointed by State Govt
- Local Complaints Committee to be appointed by State Govt…
Some of the best practices to be followed while making and implementing this policy
Sensitising the Internal Complaints Committee – the Internal complaints Committee must comprise of no less than 50% women and in order to ensure that every case is dealt with the maximum sensitivity and the principles of natural justice are followed, it is important that the committee members are familiar with the guidelines of the investigation and they strictly maintain confidentiality in order to protect the rights of the victim and the company.
Sensitising all the employees by training them (not literature) in the form of Audio visual material on what does and does not account to sexual harassment – Employees generally tend to get friendly with the opposite gender and do not realise the fine line between “friendship” and “harassment”. It is therefore important to emphasise on how to be able to distinguish between these two and ensure that someone does not fall trap to harassment, only due to lack of knowledge of what leads to it.
A competent external member for the committee, who can be unbiased and make right judgements based on facts and evidences – The external member must be a person who has expertise in laws related to women or must be working for a similar cause. It is the in the best interest of the organisation to have someone who has the maturity and can make unbiased decisions, irrespective of the positions held by the wrongdoers.
Confidentiality has to be maintained throughout the process and the ICC members have to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements – Any form of leaking of information can come in the way of natural justice and can also victimise the witnesses.
Everyone likes to discuss the incidents of sexual harassment but tackling the issue is something very few are willing to learn. The legal ways are not always so difficult and complex, if only all will take out time to learn them.
Let us aim to make every workplace a safe place to work!!
Women can also be trained on self defense and I have had the pleasure of speaking with a company call Invictus which is adept at this.
Author- Diana Sequeira, HR Business Partner at TSYS, Her expertise include Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, POSH, Policies, Recruitment, Workday, Talent Engagement, Perf Mgt & HR Analytics!