In recent years, managing a globally diverse workforce has transformed organizational dynamics to a great extent. One of the key focus areas for Indian companies is keeping the workplace secure for its employees, especially women. A safe workplace is every employee’s legal right, and organizations are mandated to give this security.
As a leader of your organization, I am sure you believe in this too. Most leaders believe in running an ethical organization with a strong code of behavior regarding safety and anti-harassment, including sexual harassment. I am sure your organization even has a policy incorporating the Vishakha guidelines.
And so you may ask, do I really need to take note of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013? My intent is clear, my actions are clear – so do I have to really?
The answer is a resounding YES. And yes on many counts.
Firstly, on the aspects of the law. To cite a few,
- It is mandatory for your organization to form an Internal Complaints Committee if you have more than 10 people .
- Your organization is duty-bound to provide assistance to your employee if she wishes to file a complaint under the Indian Penal Code.
- Upon the request of the aggrieved employee, your organization needs to provide relief (such as grant leave for a period of up to 3 months or transfer the victim or the alleged harasser to another location).
Secondly, on the implications of the Act. To name a few,
- How do I establish an Internal Complaints Committee? Who shall be its members?
- What are the organization’s accountabilities?
- What are the elements of a grievance redressal mechanism that must be in place?
- How will my organization be deemed compliant in terms of policy, awareness programs and processes?
Answers to these questions carry shades and nuances, all inextricably linked to the Act that is unforgiving of lapses. And rightly so. It is time for your organization to seriously revisit its intent, its policies, its processes and yes, perhaps even its culture.
When you do, some of the critical implications can overwhelm you.
- My organization has a committee with committed senior members. Is that enough? Or not?
- My organization has multiple offices – how should I handle it for each of them?
- Is a gender-neutral policy enough? Or should my organization draft a new policy specifically for women employees?
- If the aggrieved employee is a man, can he appeal under this Act? Can all the provisions of the Act be still invoked, both from a legal and moral standpoint?
- Does the Act require specific documentation and reporting requirements?
Believe me this is but a sample. Many more questions will cascade.
To finally, the million-dollar question – Can anyone help us ensure that our intent and outcome match?
It is a good idea to take the help of an expert. Look for someone whose expertise and experience amalgamates both human resources and legal compliance. Look for consultants who carry authentic credentials of leading organizations, of leading HR functions and of leading program delivery. Give them their due, and they will give you the guarantee of results.