POSH | 5 Min Read

Obligations of the employer under the Sexual Harassment Act of 2013

Vanya Umranikar

Senior Consultant, Parity Consulting

Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, every employer, having more than ten employees, is duty bound to create a workplace free of sexual harassment, which shall include safety of and from persons coming into the workplace. The Act has laid down the following as the responsibility of employers toward prevention and prohibition of instances of sexual harassment at the workplace:

#1: Formulating a separate Sexual Harassment Policy and circulating the same to all its employees – With the coming into force of the Act, it is mandatory for all employers having more than ten employees to have a separate POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policy and to circulate the same with all its existing employees and all new employees who join the organization as part of their orientation into the organization.

 

#2: Amend its service rules – All employers will have to make certain amendments to their existing service rules to incorporate the obligations imposed on them under the Act. Few recommended changes are:

to include Sexual Harassment as a punishable misconduct under the service rules,

  • lay down the measures or actions which can be initiated against such mis-conduct,
  • lay down the consequences of a false complaint.

 

#3: Constitute an Internal Committee (IC) – The employer is required to set up an IC at every branch having more than 10 employees, headed by a woman as its presiding member, and not just at the head or regional office. The majority of the members of the IC should be women, with at least one external member. ICs of many organizations do not have external committee members, as mandated by the Act. This non-compliance can severely jeopardise the fairness and objectivity of the IC and opens up the composition and proceedings of the IC to possible allegations of bias and unfairness.

 

#4: Display the Policy – After formulation of a separate POSH policy and its circulation among the employees, the employer is also required to display the same at conspicuous places in the workplace along with the consequences of sexual harassment. Employers are also required to conspicuously display composition of the Internal Committee along with the contact details (email etc.) where the aggrieved can send their complaints.

 

#5: Conduct regular awareness sessions – The Act mandates that every employer must conduct regular workshops and awareness programs for sensitizing all its employees in this regard. The Government has formulated appropriate training modules which may be used for educating the employees and has a recommended list of facilitators/ trainers, who can be engaged by the employers for conducting such awareness sessions.

 

#6: Equipping the IC – The employer has to ensure the Internal Committee is also regularly trained and sensitized to appropriately handle grievances sent to it. In this regard, the employer is required to conduct regular orientation and capacity building programs to educate and upskill the IC members.

#7: Facilitating a fair enquiry – The Act requires the employer to provide necessary facilities to the IC for dealing with a complaint and conducting an inquiry. The employer is mandated to make available all such information from its records to the IC, as the IC may require it for the purpose of conducting an inquiry.

#8: Act upon IC’s recommendations – Employer is required to act upon the recommendation of the Internal Committee within 60 days of receipt of the report of the Internal Committee. Further the employer shall provide assistance to the aggrieved in case she chooses to file an FIR in relation to the offence.

#9: Prepare and submit annual reports – The IC is required to submit annual reports to the appropriate authority and the employer under provisions of this Act detailing:

    • the number of complaints received,
    • the complaints which were disposed of,
    • recommendations, if any, of the IC in each case,
    • cases which are still pending for more than 90 days, stating reasons for delay, if any,
    • action taken by the employer based on the recommendations of the IC,
    • Number of awareness sessions conducted in the year for the employees and the IC

The employer has to ensure timely submission of the annual report of the IC.

Non-compliance of the above attracts a penalty of Rs. 50,000 at the first instance. For continued non-compliance the fine may double and may also lead to cancellation of the business’ operating license, apart from criminal action which may be initiated against the employer. Compliance by employers of the provisions of the Act will help them to be immune from any unwarranted situation and create safer workplaces.

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