What is Sexual Harassment Act?
As stated by the act, “An Act to provide protection against Sexual harassment of women at workplace and for Prevention and redressal of complaints of Sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”
The Act will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all the work places, be it in public or private. This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.
The act is can be read in detail at http://wcd.nic.in/wcdact/womenactsex.pdf
What is Vishaka case and Vishaka guidelines?
Vishaka is the Women’s right’s group that filed a PIL in Supreme Court of India– the case of Bhanwari Devi Vs. the state of Rajasthan in 1997. Bhanwari Devi (from a potter community) who tried to prevent child marriage as part of her duties as a worker of the Women Development Programme was raped by the landlords of the community in order to teach her a lesson . The rape survivor did not get justice from Rajasthan High Court and the rapists were allowed to go free.
Thus resulting in Vishaka guidelines, for dealing with sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The verdict defined sexual harassment, laid down duties of employers in dealing with complaints and stipulated formation of committees to dispose of complaints from victims of harassment.
Prior to this verdict, the person facing sexual harassment at workplace had to lodge a complaint under Section 354 or 509 of the Indian Penal Code .
Why should employers be compliant to the act?
What should be done to be compliant with the law?
4 Key steps to be compliant with the law
- Sexual Harassment Policy creation compliant to the act – detailing the Employee and Employers roles and responsibilities; Complaint and Redressal mechanisms
- Internal Complaints Committee setup as per guidelines and should be equipped to handle complaints after thorough investigation and recommend actions to be taken
- Employee awareness on the act, Complaints and Redressal mechanisms as detailed in the policy
- Statutory reporting of the cases filed and action taken should be reported and filed in the Company’s annual report
Read more on how KELP can help your organization to be compliant with the above.
Some Observations on what the act states
- Employment rules/service rules should also be amended to include:
- Termination or action taken due to Sexual harassment at workplace based on and in compliance with the Internal Complaints Committee, ICC report/findings.
- Victim has the right to ask for a transfer
- Per law, there should be an ICC formed at every branch of the company in the country, where there are more than 10 employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level
- ICC is also applicable for all men branch. As even a lady vendor or a lady visitor to the workplace needs to have the option of raising the complaint
- ICC – can also be headed by a Senior male employee in case a Senior women is not available in a particular branch. But in all there should be 2 women as part of the ICC including the 3rd party NGO representative
- The ICC is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days
- Annual Statutory reporting – As part of the Annual report that every company files, The number of cases reported and action taken should be published
- A victim has to raise a complaint within 3 months of the incident
- Sexual harassment at workplace is a criminal offence as per the changes made in IPC. So a victim can raise a Criminal complaint case as well as a case with the ICC and both can run in parallel