Every business endeavours to have smooth functioning and keep good repo with and among the employees. Making awareness among the employees and other stakeholders of the do's and don't at the workplace is as important as running the core business of the organization. With the increasing number of sexual harassment cases at the workplace and the requirement of compliances, it is better for any organization despite its size or area of business to implement the POSH Policy as per POSH Act, 2013 to avoid any complicated legal disputes and costs thereunder.
Under this guide, we will be discussing the importance and benefits of implementing the POSH Policy at your organization.
What is a POSH Policy?
A POSH Policy is a document used to make awareness among the employees and other personnel of an organization about the POSH Act (The Sexual Harassment of Woman at Workplace), 2013. The purpose of this Policy is to provide a safe, secure and enabling environment, free from sexual harassment to every employee. The employees may not be aware of what constitutes sexual harassment and the boundaries by which they need to act while dealing with other employees and personnel of the organization.
The POSH Policy applies to all employees and other people connected with the business including the customer, clients, suppliers, contractors, etc. of the organization. Further, the Policy endeavours to protect its women employees at any place visited by her which arises out of or during her employment with the organization including transportation provided by the organization.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour, whether directly or by implication:
- physical contact and advances;
- a demand or request for sexual favours;
- making sexually coloured remarks;
- showing pornography; or
- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
What are the benefits of implementing a POSH policy?
- Making awareness among the employees and other stakeholders of the company.
- Ensuring a safer workplace.
- Help to improve the morale of the employees and in return, the employees will feel more committed towards the organization.
- It empowers the employees to come forward with their grievances about sexual harassment.
- Ensures confidentiality of the proceedings.
- Creating a more secure and tension free environment for employees.
- Scrutinizing malicious complaints and taking appropriate actions against such employees.
- Ensuring legal compliance and avoiding any legal disputes and penalties.
- Protecting the goodwill of the organization.
- Employee retention at the organization.
What are the main areas covered under the POSH policy?
The POSH policy covers the following important areas:
- Sexual Harassment - this defines what actions will constitute a sexual offence under the POSH Act in the workplace.
- Internal Complaints Committee ("ICC") - this covers the constitution of ICC, their roles and responsibilities to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.
- Lodging a Complaint - this covers how an aggrieved woman can file a complaint to the ICC, rules, and timelines to submit a complaint.
- Conciliation - Once the aggrieved woman files the complaint to the ICC, the aggrieved woman can opt for a conciliation process to settle the matter with the connivance of the ICC.
- Enquiry - this covers the enquiry proceedings, rules and timelines to be followed when a complaint is received by the ICC.
- Interim Relief - During the pendency of the inquiry, the ICC may recommend to the employer to take necessary steps to give temporary relief to the aggrieved woman by transferring her or the respondent (a person against whom the allegations have been made) to a different workplace or granting leave for three months or other appropriate reliefs as the employer may deem fit to meet the justice.
- Compensation - the ICC have the right to determine compensation to be paid to the aggrieved woman by the respondent in accordance with the POSH Act.
- Penal Consequences of Sexual Harassment - as per the POSH Act, the ICC is required to punish the offender in accordance with the gravity of the offence committed and in accordance with the company rules.
- Malicious Allegations - in case if the complaint registered is malicious or false, the ICC will have the right to take appropriate actions against such employee, including termination of employment.
- Confidentiality - Sexual harassment offences being a highly sensitive subject, all the parties involved shall keep all the information highly confidential and will be liable to the penal offence if someone violates the same.
What is an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)?
If your organization have more than 10 employees you need to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee ("ICC") to deal with sexual harassment complaints at the workplace. If your organization have less than 10 employees, then sexual harassment complaints will be handled by the district committee appointed by the concerned district authorities.
Under the Policy, you need to disclose the details of the internal committee members. As per the POSH Act, if you fail to constitute the internal committee, you may face legal consequences including a fine and or termination of your licenses. At least one-half of the total Members so nominated shall be women and the maximum tenure of each member is of three years.
Members of the ICC
- a Presiding Officer who shall be a woman employed at a senior level at the Workplace from amongst the employees;
- not less than two Members from the amongst the employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have experience in social work or have legal knowledge;
- one Member from amongst non-governmental organizations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
Responsibilities of the ICC
- receiving complaints of sexual harassment at the Workplace;
- initiating the inquiry and procedure as per this Policy;
- submitting the report and recommendations to the management;
- coordinating with the management in implementing appropriate action;
- maintaining strict confidentiality throughout the process as per this Policy; and
- submitting annual reports in the prescribed format.
Having a POSH policy for your business is essential in making sure the employees are adhering to the POSH rules and to ensure that the employees are treated with dignity and respect by other employees and members of the organization. After implementing the POSH policy, you are required to conduct regular awareness and training programmes for the employees.
The constitution of a committee may not end your responsibility as an employer, you need to ensure that the committee is working in accordance with POSH policy and other applicable rules of the organization. And also, you need to ensure that the committee has the authority and independence to conduct the investigation and implement its decisions smoothly.
In case if you fail to adhere to the POSH Act, 2013, it will have an adverse impact on the organization including complicated legal cases and unnecessary costs. Mismanagement of sexual harassment cases will adversely affect the reputation and goodwill of your organization and will have a negative impact on the long-term growth and development.
As per the POSH Act, 2013, if your organization fails to implement and adhere to the Act, you may be penalized and your license may get cancelled permanently.
Thus, as an organization, it is better to comply with the laws under the POSH Act, 2013 and implement a clear and effective POSH policy at your organization.
Prevention is always better than cure!
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