Company’s part in preventing sexual harassment at the workplace does not end with just inserting up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). Other things such as anti-sexual harassment policies, notice at the workplace and conducting sessions for the employees.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 also known as the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act. This was passed by the Parliament.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace/ Sexual Harassment Prevention Act imposes more than 10 obligations on companies to ensure that working women don’t face sexual harassment at the workplace. There are several penalties that will be imposed if there are reported cases of non-compliance with any of the provisions. The penalties will introduce fines or even cancellations of the business license(s).
The company/organization should have 0 tolerance against sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees should feel afraid to even think of their co-workers in sexual terms.
The company should guarantee the highest confidentiality to the victim of sexual harassment.
The different points to be included in the sexual harassment policy of a company are:
The company should devise an Internal Complains Committee (ICC) at all the offices or branches of the organization
Every organization/company must set up and develop an ‘Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)’ at every office location or branch, where there are at least 10 employees employed there. The Internal Complaints Committee must be set up even if there are no women employees. Complying to this set up of the Internal Complaints Committee is very crucial because this enables even 3rd parties such as contractors, customers and anyone who is visiting the premises of the organization to file complaints of sexual harassment that took place at the workplace.
The company’s anti-sexual harassment policy should be arranged with the provisions of the law, for instance, such as definition clauses, procedural mechanisms, interim remedies, etc.,
Changes should me made in the employees contracts as this makes the employees legally restricted for acts that relate to sexual harassment at the workplace
The Anti- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act requires the company to treat a circumstance of sexual harassment as misconduct under the rules of employment. The employment contract or service rules should clearly state that sexual harassment of any form will be seen as a form of misconduct. For new hire employees, the company should insert a special clause in the employment contract that states that sexual harassment will be considered as a misconduct. For existing employees, the company should share a copy of the sexual harassment policies and should ask the employees to sign on the amended service rules and submit the same with the human resources department. The outcomes for misconduct should be clearly specified and must not be vague terms such as deduction of wages or termination of employment.
The company should organize and conduct workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for, a) sensitizing employees on implications of sexual harassment at the work place, and b) organizing orientation programmes for members of the Internal Complaints Committee.
The company has the duty to sensitize employees regarding sexual harassment issues by organizing and conducting workshops and seminars. Under the Anti- Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act the central government requires the company to perform the following: –
Dissemination of the policies upon sexual harassment.
Carrying orientation programs for the posts of the Internal Complaints Committee.
Conduct skill building programmes for the posts of the Internal Complaints Committee.
Publish names and contact details of the members of the Internal Complaints Committee for the easy access by employees of the company.
The company may invite legal practitioners, representatives of NGOs, organizations that have operated on issues that are related to women’s rights or human rights for such orientation programs on sensitizing sexual harassment.
The penal consequences and legal actions for indulging in acts that constitute sexual harassment and the composition of the Internal Complaints Committee should be displayed visibly at the workplace.
The company should put up notices and layouts in visible places at the workplace about the penal outcomes of indulging in sexual harassment. This is done to build a sense of continuous awareness and a sensitisation for the employees. The names and contact data of the members of the Internal Complaints Committee can be included in the notices as well. The places where these notices should be put up is essential, it should be places where the employees will read the notices, samples of such places include the cafeteria, washrooms, Xerox machines, etc.,
Even if a perpetrator is not an employee, the company should help workers to launch legal action against the perpetrator for sexual harassment under the criminal law.
In some situations, sexual harassment could have happened at the workplace, but the perpetrator is not under the control of the company. Consequently, the company has restrained powers to assist the victim through the Internal Complaints Committee. Except, if the victim requests the company is obliged under the law to provide adequate assistance to the victim in addressing the police station, filing a First Information Report (FIR), approaching the courts, etc.,
The Internal Complaints Committee should be provided with the necessary facilities for dealing with sexual harassment instances.
The Internal Complaints Committee will need facilitation and assistance from the company’s end to carry out the interrogations. The facilitation from the company side can include: –
Providing the Internal Complaints Committee with a venue so that the probe can be carried out comfortably in a private manner.
Logistical support, for instance, furniture, stationery etc.,
Assuring the members of the Internal Complaints Committee have access to secure communication, for instance, internet, phone connectivity, etc., as this guarantees the smooth proceedings of the enquiry hearing sessions.
Rendering access to the company’s policies and manuals. Any basic legal literature that is held by the company.
The company must help the Internal Complaints Committee to ensure the person who is alleged to be the perpetrator is present for the enquiry. Any eyewitnesses to the crime should also be present.