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Workshop on Recognizing and Preventing Sexual Harassment

Sajeena M

HR - Manager

16-Aug-2016

Workshop on Recognizing and Preventing Sexual Harassment

First week of August, I was fortunate to attend a workshop on Recognizing and Preventing Sexual Harassment at work place.  Knowledge is Power this was proved here, 80% of attendee were women.  This workshop was organized by NASSCOM.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.   It was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on 26 February 2013.

  1. The Bill got the assent of the President on 23 April 2013.
  2. The Act came into force from 9 December 2013.
  3. This statute superseded the Vishakha Guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment introduced by the Supreme Court of India. It was reported by the International Labor Organization that very few Indian employers were compliant to this statute.
  4. Most Indian employers have not implemented the law despite the legal requirement that any workplace with more than 10 employees need to implement it.
  5. According to a FICCI-EY November 2015 report, 36% of Indian companies and 25% among MNCs are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.
  6. The government has threatened to take stern action against employers who fail to comply with this law.

What is Harassment?

Sexual Harassment means any unwelcome sexual determined behavior such as a physical contact and advances, unwelcome communication or invitations, request for favors, showing pornography, creating a hostile work environment or any other unwelcome behavior.

Harassment could also be Quid pro quo – means in workplace is sexual favors are asked in exchange of any kind of special treatment on the job.  This can be associated at the time of confirmation of Job, appraisal period, promotion time etc..  The act of asking may either be verbal or implied and the sexual conduct may be verbal or physical, but in either case, it must be unwelcome

Hostile work environment when the behavior within the workplace creates an environment that is difficult for another person to work in.  It also mean related retaliation (action of hurting others since they have hurted you) which includes marginalizing someone in workplace with regard to his / her roles and responsibilities.

Applicability

This policy is applicable to all permanent and contractual employees, “employees from client side”. 

Scope

  1. Office premises including cafeteria, lifts, lobby – entire building.
  2. Any external location – Client location during the course of employment with the company, company provided Guest house.
  3. Any mode of transportation provided by the company.

For eg: A birthday party has been arranged by a colleague in his house and if any unwelcome incident happens, and manager was also present during the event, this incident becomes an official and the complaint can be addressed to the committee. Presence of Manager makes it as official. 

While going to movie by teammates – same is applicable here.

Constitution of the committee:

The committee must comprise:

  1. A senior level woman employee (who shall be the Presiding officer)
  2. Two employees committed to the cause of women or what have experience in social work or has a legal knowledge.
  3. A member of an association committed to the cause of women – NGO

General duties of the employers under the act – Every employer must:

  1. Formulate a Sexual harassment policy
  2. Publicly display the penal consequences of sexual harassment
  3. Set up an internal Complaints Committee and conspicuously display the order constituting the committee – including the names and contact details of all the committee members.

How to deal with a complaint.

The complaint can be received through a call or email or by word of mouth, the committee must get the complaint written and signed by the complainant.

First Step

  1. The incident should be reported within  90days to the committee
  2. The written compliant must be received to the committee and the committee should take action within 7 days
  3. The Committee must send a copy of the complaint and related documents to the accused/ respondent 

Second Step

  1. The accused/ respondent must file his reply along with supporting documents and witnesses ( Fair time will be allotted  by the committee
  2. The committee must commence the Inquiry after receiving the documents from accused
  3. The inquiry must  be completed within 90 days

Third Step

  1. The Committee must provide a report of its findings to the Employer , The finding can be discussed to the compliant and the accused.
  2. Action must be taken by the employer based to the recommendations given by the Committee
  3. District Officer should file an Annual report

Legal Penalties

Penalties have been prescribed under the act for the following offences

  • Repeated conviction of any offence under the act - INR 1,00,000/- cancellation of license
  • Failure to constitute a Committee Failure to take action based on the recommendations of Committee , Contravention of any other provision under the act - INR 50,000/-
  • For publication of the identity of the victims and witness or the action taken by the employer by any person entrusted with the duty to handle or deal with complaints of sexual harassment - INR 5,000/-

Annual Report: 

The annual report of the committee must contain details of the number of complaints received in a year, complaints disposed of during the year along with the nature of action taken by the employer.  Cases pending for more than 90days. Workshops conducted.

The annual report should be send to the District officer, still there is not clarity to whom should be sent.

Note

  • Provide the Complaints committee access to all facilities necessary for dealing with complaints
  • Ensure timely submission of the reports by the Committee to employer and District officer, The Employer must also include in its annual report, the number of cases filed and disposed.
  • If the victim so choose, assist her in filing a criminal complaint or where appropriate directly initiate criminal action.  This can happen in client location incident.
  • Organize workshops and awareness programmers to sensitize employees and orientation programmers for the members of the committee.
  • Inform employees to not to remain silent if harassed, since other may also become victim.
  • Provide confidence to keep it private.

Tips for preventing:

  • Professionalism
  • Establish clear boundaries
  • Value – Treat other as you could like to be treated
  • Conducting workshops.
  • Supervisor/Manger: plays a key role, should be aware, be respectable, take allegation seriously, listen actively do not judge.

I found this session very help to know about the act and how to implement the same in the company, there was a lot of discussion which gave me an insight into this policy. Women should be felt safer in her workplace, since she spends more time in office than with her family. 

My points might help other small companies who have not known about this law.

Contact me @ sajeena.mohamed@travanleo.com

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