Tracing the existence of POSH
Women have always found themselves in a tight spot in all realms of life, being referred to as the “Fairer Sex”, fighting the prejudices, the glass ceiling, and basically for their rights, a chance to prove their mettle, and show they are if not superior, then at least to be treated equally with due respect.
Women are equally capable to be the breadwinners of a family and as a matter of fact, it becomes pertinent as a country of equal opportunities to provide them with a safe and conducive environment to focus on the job at hand and give it their all. However, a country with population of one billion and counting, there ought to be sour grapes and people feel entitled to misuse their position and power.
How then do we face these masochistic and cynical people, who try to go against the very notion of violating a “Safe Workplace”?
We indeed took a long time but better late than never, the Women of India deserved to be given equal rights and opportunities to shine forth, to ensure their safety and safeguard their interests at workplaces, and it was long due.
April 22 nd, 2013- Historical Day Indeed
Harassment of women at workplace is not something new or unheard of. Despite ratifying in 1992 for CEDAW (United Nations Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women), no concrete measures were adopted to safeguard women’s interest at the workplace.
In 2013, after public pressure and activism, and the inability to provide justice to victims of harassment in the informal sector under the “Vishakha Guidelines,” the Ministry of Women and Child took a very important step towards this direction by providing a legal framework against sexual harassment at workplace by enforcing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act which encompasses both formal and informal sectors, and came into force on 9th December, 2013.
The question still remains are we really safe? Why do instances like #MeToo have to take place for us to collectively make reforms and abjectly analyse the situation of our workplaces?
There are a lot of disbeliefs and myths that hover around this topic. The lack of awareness about their own rights and the societal taboo, often encourages these instances to go unnoticed. It remains the responsibility of an Employer to educate and make both men and women aware about the acceptable code of conduct and the Do’s and Don’t’s at the workplace.
Would now like to bring your attention at certain facts and distinguish them from the myths that concerns the POSH.
Let’s talk “REAL”:
- As an employer or business owner, if you employ 10 or more employees, it becomes MANDATORY to comply with the Act. Now if there are multiple locations, it applies to all locations.
- The Act mandates under Section 4, the setting up of an Internal Committee (IC) for both private and public sectors. But what if there are less than 10 employees? In such cases, Local Committee (LC) is formed and the matters are looked into at district level.
- The law protects a woman in entirety of her employment. If the harassment happens to her while traveling for work/ during transportation, it still is a responsibility of an employer to safeguard her rights by and large.
- If found guilty, the accused can be let off with a written apology or transferred or even terminated, depending upon the gravity of offense.
- Any non-compliance with the POSH Act, including failure to constitute the Internal Committee (IC), or not acting on the recommendations given by the Internal Committee among others, can lead to severe repercussions. The employer is liable to face a penalty of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2,00,000, while in some instances the license to do business can also be cancelled.
Debunking the myths
- The law has provisions to safeguard women from sexual harassment at workplace and the victim is always a woman- this statement doesn’t hold true.
In case the victim is a male or third gender, similar provisions apply. POSH is pro-women agreed, but the organisations are encouraged to be “gender-neutral” and same provisions protect the rights of all genders against sexual harassment at workplace.
- The harassment has to be physical in nature, for action to be taken
Again, harassment can be verbal, non-verbal, direct or indirect. Flirting, unwelcomed complimenting on physique, forwarding inappropriate messages with sexual innuendo/ gender demeaning jokes, gestures, all count as workplace improper behaviour.
- The Act protects only permanent employees at the organisation.
As per the Act, all the women workforce, including permanent, ad hoc, temporary, contractual, freelancers, interns, engaged on a daily wage basis, any woman that visits the premises (Medical representative, salesperson, etc.), their safety and rights are protected.
- A person who makes false accusation/complaint can get away unscathed
It takes immense courage for a victim of harassment to come forward and report the matter, however, there are few instances in which some false complaints are made. These maybe due to a number of reasons but rest assured, these are considered a matter of grave concern and the defendant has to undergo strict action and might also be terminated from their services.
Also, no monetary compensation is granted in such cases.
- It is mandatory to display the notice about Do’s and Don’t’s at workplace under prevention and redressal of sexual harassment in English.
The intent to display notices is to spread awareness among employees, along with English, the notice must be displayed in Hindi or any regional language as applicable.
As an employer and organisation that promotes a gender neutral, safe working conditions, it is important that women have their constitutional right to dignity and equal opportunities safeguarded. It is an ethical and moral responsibility of an employer to comply with the regulations under the ACT irrespective of the size and nature of work. Non-compliance can have serious implications and loss of reputation, including imprisonment in select cases.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/blog are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Amazing Workplaces or its founders. The descriptions shared and examples given in this article/blog do not imply the expression of any views and opinion whatsoever on the part of Amazing Workplaces or its founders.