In today’s world, the issue of sexual harassment has become more prevalent than ever before. It is no longer something that can be ignored, swept under the rug, or even taken lightly. Sexual harassment is an egregious violation of a person’s dignity and self-respect, and it has no place in any workplace. This is where POSH or Prevention of Sexual Harassment comes into play.
The POSH Act is a legal framework that has been put in place in India to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, was enacted to provide a safe and healthy work environment for women. The Act aims to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace, and ensure that women are not subjected to any kind of harassment or discrimination in their work environment.
The Act defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome physical contact, advances, or remarks of a sexual nature, demands sexual favors, or any other unwelcome conduct of sexual nature. It covers all women who are employed, including full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract workers, and even interns.
The POSH Act mandates the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at every workplace with more than 10 employees. The ICC is responsible for receiving and redressing complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace. The committee must consist of at least one external member, preferably from an NGO or an organization that has experience in dealing with sexual harassment cases.
The ICC is required to conduct an inquiry into the complaint, and if the allegations are found to be true, the committee may recommend appropriate action against the harasser. The recommended action may include a warning, fine, suspension, transfer, or termination of employment. If the harassment is found to be of a criminal nature, the ICC may recommend filing a complaint with the police.
The Act also provides protection to the complainant against any adverse action that may be taken against them for filing a complaint. The complainant cannot be terminated, suspended, or demoted as a result of filing a complaint. In addition, the Act also provides for compensation to be paid to the complainant if the complaint is found to be true.
Importance of POSH Act Compliance
It is important for all employers to comply with the POSH Act to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all their employees. The Act helps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a mechanism for redressing complaints if they do occur. Compliance with the POSH Act has several benefits, including:
Creating a safe workplace: Compliance with the Act ensures that the workplace is free from sexual harassment, creating a safe and conducive working environment for all employees.
Protecting women’s rights: Compliance with the Act protects women’s rights and ensures that they are not subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
Boosting employee morale: Compliance with the Act can boost employee morale, as employees are assured that their complaints will be taken seriously and that they will not face any adverse action for filing a complaint.
Avoiding legal consequences: Compliance with the Act helps employers avoid fines or imprisonment for non-compliance, ensuring that the business is not subjected to legal consequences.
Steps to Ensure POSH Act Compliance
To ensure compliance with the POSH Act, employers need to take the following steps:
Formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC): Employers must form an ICC to receive and redress complaints of sexual harassment. The committee must consist of at least one external member, preferably from an NGO or an organization that has experience in dealing with sexual harassment cases. The employer must also appoint a Presiding Officer who will be responsible for the overall functioning of the ICC.
Notification: Employers must notify all employees of the ICC’s formation, the names and contact information of the members of the committee, and the procedure for making a complaint. This notification can be done through the employee handbook, posters, email, or any other suitable means.
Training: Employers must provide training to employees on the prevention of sexual harassment and the redressal mechanism under the Act. This training should be provided to all employees, including managers, supervisors, and members of the ICC. The training must be conducted at regular intervals, and the employer must maintain a record of attendance.
Displaying information: Employers must display information on the Act, including the details of the ICC and the procedure for making a complaint. This information must be prominently displayed in the workplace, and all employees must be aware of its location.
Redressal mechanism: Employers must establish a redressal mechanism for complaints of sexual harassment. The mechanism should include procedures for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints, as well as the provision for maintaining confidentiality.
Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) procedure: Employers must ensure that the ICC follows the prescribed procedure for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints. The procedure should be fair, and impartial, and should ensure that the complainant is not subjected to any adverse action for filing a complaint.
Record keeping: Employers must maintain a record of all complaints received, as well as the action taken by the ICC. The record should include details such as the name of the complainant, the nature of the complaint, the action taken by the ICC, and the outcome of the complaint.
Annual report: Employers must prepare an annual report on the number of complaints received and the action taken by the ICC. The report should be submitted to the district officer or any other authority designated by the government.
Non-discrimination policy: Employers must have a non-discrimination policy in place, which prohibits discrimination based on gender or any other protected characteristic. This policy should be communicated to all employees, and the employer must ensure that it is followed in practice.
Zero-tolerance policy: Employers must have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. The policy should clearly state that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace and that strict action will be taken against any employee found guilty of harassment.
In conclusion, compliance with the POSH Act is essential for creating a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Employers must take proactive measures to ensure compliance, including the formation of an ICC, training, displaying information, establishing a redressal mechanism, and maintaining records. By doing so, employers can ensure that they are providing a workplace free from sexual harassment and discrimination, while also avoiding legal consequences for non-compliance. For more information, you can contact well-known lawyers such as Advocate Neha Batra, in Delhi to understand the details more deeply.