- What do you understand by harassment at the workplace?
- Women safety at the workplace
- What is POSH Act?
- What is considered to be harassment at the workplace?
- Mandatory measures under POSH Act
- Pros & Cons of POSH Act
In a world which holds ethos of equality so close, discrimination, gender-specific violence, harassment seems quite outdated. However, no matter how much we deny, the fact of the matter is that the demons who thrive on such things lurk within our society & nowadays more than ever.
In this blog, we shall discuss various aspects of women safety in the workplace. So everyone reading this, this is important.
What do you understand by harassment at the workplace?
The workplace ideally is considered to be a much safer place for employees, especially women. However in recent times a sudden but alarming surge in harassment cases across length & breadth of the country can be seen, strict laws have come in picture to ensure the safety of women at the workplace.
What is workplace harassment? Ever thought about it?
Workplace harassment is defined as any misconduct in a form of any action or communication which may be directed towards the victim to demean, mock, discriminate on grounds of religion or race, threats, intimidation or sexual or physical assault at a workplace which may involve, colleagues, managers, support staff, clients, group of coworkers and so on.
Women safety at the workplace
As per the data published, following data was unveiled about sexual harassment of women in the workplace.
Various studies revealed a spike of 14% in sexual harassment cases in almost 100 BSE companies.
Representation of women in these companies rose by 8% in the year 2019.
This growth could be found directly related to the awareness created by #MeToo
In the year 2019, 823 cases of sexual harassment have been registered so far compared to 722 cases last year.
Similarly, data published by India spend, in the year 2014, workplace sexual harassment cases increased by an alarming 54% compared to 2017.
Amidst the growing concerns about workplace harassment, the government came with a law to prevent such incidents at the workplace. This act was known as the POSH act.
What is POSH Act?
If we trace down the journey of POSH Act coming into effect, it can be traced back to a supreme court verdict in the case of Vishaka & Ors vs State of Rajasthan & Ors in the year 1997, this case was filed by an NGO asking for landmark punishment for the rapists who were involved in a gang rape of a social worker, while she was at work. While the Supreme Court of India pronounced its judgment stating that sexual harassment is a grave violation of the constitutional rights of women, a need for strict laws for the protection of women at the workplace came in the forefront.
POSH Act was brought into effect in 2013 after clearly both houses of the parliament. Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) is a law as the name suggests, was brought in to protect women from any harassment at work along with providing a safe, non-discriminatory environment within their workplaces. Most of the organizations, implement this act & adhere to a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment of women.
What is considered to be harassment at the workplace?
Under POSH Act, section 2 provides details of actions which come under the domain of harassment, these are;
• Any unwanted physical contact or advances towards the victim which could be intimidating or sexual in nature.
• Any demands for sexual favors.
• Passing demeaning or sexual remarks over the color of the victim.
• Forcefully showing pornography to the victim.
• Unwanted abusive, sexual or physical conduct.
Furthermore, the act broadens its definitions of sexual harassment which indicates its usage in various situations at the workplace. Here are some of these acts;
• Any form of a promise to give preference towards any growth or hiring in victims' employment.
• Threat of any form to disrupt the victim’s employment if sexual request or demand isn’t met.
• Threat made towards altering or interfering in victims present or future employment status.
• Creation of hostile or offensive work environment for the victim.
• Any undesired treatment which can affect victims’ health or safety.
While laws like these came up,assumptions & confusions also found its way. What can be treated as harassment & what does not fall in the same made rounds within the corporate workplaces.Assumptions came into picture wherein people wondered if even asking people out for a mere lunch, could make them a offender. Similarly countless myths or
presumptions arose creating an unhealthy environment within an office.
It's noteworthy that POSH Act comes as a gender-specific
Act & extends even beyond the walls of an office.However its a responsibility of every organization to make sure that POSH Act is looked upon by both genders in the empowering manner. Its also the responsibility of managers, Human resource managers, team leaders and so on to create awareness within employees about various facts involved in the domain of POSH. Hence to counter any such assumptions or confusions, provisions to conduct POSH training is brought into effect.
Main objectives of POSH training is,
• To make employees familiar with various aspects, definitions & consequences of harassment within a workplace.
• To train internal committee members effectively to equip them with a better understanding of situations wherein POSH act is applicable & how to better deal with such issues.
• To provide apt information about POSH gender neutrality & how can it be used by men who face any kind of sexual harassment during work in the workplace.
Mandatory measures under POSH Act
Section 4 of this Act mentions the measures (which are declared mandatory) to be taken by employers to safeguard women at the workplace. Here are the pointers which are important to comply with for every employer. These measures are termed mandatory for every firm which has more than 10 employees on its rolls.
Drafting an internal committee which should mandatorily comprise of a presiding officer (a woman) who shall be appointed by the senior management.
At least one external member who is from any external non-government organization, NGO.
Minimum of two employee from the same firm who shall represent the employees of an organization.
At least one half of the panel should be women. This is to make sure the balance of gender ratio & provide comfort level to the victim to speak freely.
Employees should go through POSH training at least once mandatorily every year.
Every case that is reported, irrespective of assuming the intention or level of impact, it is mandatory for the committee to enquire in each case.
If the employer fails to comply with the act within the workplace, a hefty fine which may go up to 50,000 can be imposed. If the same is still not brought into effect, the fine amount can spring up to twice the fine for the first time noncompliance. Along with that, cancellation of license, withdrawal can also be levied by the government.
Pros & Cons of POSH Act
The POSH Act has provided a structured definition of sexual harassment within a workplace. This has broadened its concept & helped in safeguarding the safety of women within the corporates of modern India. However, it has some shortcomings too. Here are some pros & cons of the POSH Act.
The POSH act helped in highlighting sexual harassment at workplace more effectively & provided a platform for victims to get speedy solution.
POSH Act looks upon sexual harassment at workplace as a undebatable criminal offense & makes its definition much simple & understandable.
POSH Act also provides a detailed view of actions which can be physical or verbal in nature & can easily be placed under the POSH Act.
Mandatory compliance of POSH Act within organizations has provided a perfect platform for its better advertisement & better understanding.
Provisions under this act provide internal committees with guidelines to act quickly on any such complain & provide an effective solution for the same.
POSH Act has acted as a confidence booster for women to go out & pursue a career in various fields without having to worry about any form of harassment at work.
Implementation of the POSH Act on the ground is still not compiled by a lot of companies.
Application of this act in government offices is still vivid & clear understanding of the act in regards to government offices can still prove tricky.
Proving a sexual harassment case can prove to be a hard nut to crack for the victim, especially in proving any verbal or any offensive action.
POSH Act is quite effective and has proved its worth in corporates, however more POSH Training sessions on ground level wherein government employees are also involved is still a need of an hour.
However, the government & many NGOs constantly work to make sure POSH implementation becomes an integral part of every company’s ethos.
In our country, sexual harassment on women has become an everyday thing, with news of rapes or assaults being a part of our daily newspaper headlines, we need to step up as citizens & make sure we do our part in protecting the dignity of our fellow women citizens.
Even at our workplaces, we should be safeguarding our fellow woman colleagues, managers & so on & raise our voice against any form of harassment that we may be witness to.
A society which respects women is a society worth respecting.