Im­pli­ca­tions of the Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place (Preven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal) Act, 2013

FICCI Business Digest - - Special Features -

The Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place (Preven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal), Act 2013 was passed by the In­dian Par­lia­ment in De­cem­ber 2013 with the ob­jec­tive to cre­ate a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for women and to nur­ture the growth of a holis­tic work ecosys­tem.

Even be­fore the pas­sage of the Act, many com­pa­nies in In­dia were as­sid­u­ously pur­su­ing gen­der di­ver­sity and in­clu­siv­ity at the work­place. As in­creas­ing num­ber of women join the work­force, com­pa­nies are well aware of the need of cre­at­ing a safe and com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages growth and de­vel­op­ment.

The Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place (Preven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal), Act 2013 is mod­eled on the Vishakha Guide­lines which have served as the case law to curb in­stances of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place since 1997.

The fol­low­ing is a brief on the com­pli­ance re­quire­ments en­shrined un­der the Act: Con­sti­tute an In­ter­nal Com­plaints Com­mit­tee (ICC): Ev­ery em­ployer of a work­place em­ploy­ing more than 10 em­ploy­ees is re­quired to es­tab­lish an ICC at each lo­ca­tion and pro­vide nec­es­sary fa­cil­i­ties to the Com­mit­tee for deal­ing with a com­plaint and con­duct an in­quiry. The mem­bers of ICC, to be nom­i­nated by the em­ployer would in­clude : (a) Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cer who shall be a woman em­ployed at a se­nior level, (b) not less than two mem­bers from amongst em­ploy­ees prefer­ably com­mit­ted to the cause of women and (c) one mem­ber from non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions. At least one half of the to­tal Mem­bers so nom­i­nated need to be women. As­sist in se­cur­ing the at­ten­dance of re­spon­dent and wit­nesses' be­fore the ICC, make avail­able such in­for­ma­tion as may be re­quired and also pro­vide as­sis­tance to the ag­grieved woman if she so chooses to file a com­plaint in re­la­tion to the of­fense un­der the In­dian Pe­nal Code or any other law. Dis­play the pe­nal con­se­quences of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place. For­mu­late and widely dis­sem­i­nate an in­ter­nal pol­icy/ char­ter/res­o­lu­tion/dec­la­ra­tion for pro­hi­bi­tion, preven­tion and re­dres­sal of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place. It is im­per­a­tive to de­clare the names and con­tact de­tails of mem­bers of an ICC. Or­ga­nize and hold ori­en­ta­tion pro­grams and sem­i­nars, and con­duct ca­pac­ity-and skill build­ing pro­grams for ICC mem­bers Or­ga­nize sen­si­ti­za­tion and aware­ness pro­grammes for em­ploy­ees: In or­der to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment an­ti­sex­ual ha­rass­ment poli­cies at the work­place, on­line and off­line train­ing should be im­parted to ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees and new joi­nees. In­ves­ti­gate com­plaints and take strict ac­tion against the per­pe­tra­tors in the pre­scribed time­lines. Treat sex­ual ha­rass­ment as “mis­con­duct” un­der ser­vice rules/pro­cesses. Ini­ti­ate ac­tion for such mis­con­duct Sub­mit An­nual re­port to the pre­scribed Gov­ern­ment author­ity. In or­der to im­ple­ment the reg­u­la­tions in 'spirit', at­ten­tion should be paid to the fol­low­ing There are times when the ICC may have to han­dle sen­si­tive cases which or­ga­ni­za­tions would not want to re­port to law en­force­ment agen­cies to pro­tect their pub­lic im­age. ICCs have been given the author­ity to han­dle such cases in­ter­nally; and they may take ad­van­tage of the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­vi­sions in the Act be­fore ini­ti­at­ing in­quiries at the re­quest of ag­grieved women em­ploy­ees and take ef­fec­tive steps to set­tle the mat­ter. There is a need for com­mit­tee mem­bers to re­ceive prac­ti­cal and re­al­is­tic train­ing through hands-on ap­proach so that they can con­duct in­quiries in a fair and just man­ner. An­a­lyz­ing dif­fer­ent points of view and tak­ing into ac­count all forms of ev­i­dence avail­able is im­por­tant be­fore de­cid­ing whether a com­plaint is ma­li­cious or gen­uine. Cor­po­rate work­places have be­come in­creas­ingly in­for­mal over time and it is com­mon for em­ploy­ees to travel for meet­ings and con­fer­ences and so­cial­ize be­yond work hours. In such sce­nar­ios, it be­comes im­per­a­tive for em­ploy­ers to en­sure that in­di­vid­u­als main­tain proper deco­rum around their co-work­ers which could be achieved by driv­ing a com­pany's stance on such mat­ters so that the em­ploy­ees can un­der­stand its core val­ues. In in­stances where the In­ter­nal Com­plaints Com­mit­tee has not been con­sti­tuted due to hav­ing less than 10 work­ers; or if the com­plaint is against the em­ployer him­self, the com­plaints could be reg­is­tered with the 'Lo­cal Com­plaints Com­mit­tee' which ev­ery Dis­trict Of­fi­cer shall con­sti­tute in the dis­trict con­cerned. Ref­er­ences:

1. Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment of Women at Work­place (Preven­tion, Pro­hi­bi­tion and Re­dres­sal), Act 2013 2. EY Re­port on 'Rein­ing in sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place in In­dia'

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