PoSH Act 2013: The Safeguard Against Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment of an individual in the workplace is a grave concern to humanity. It may involve unwanted advances. Some other forms of harassment, both verbal and physical. It fundamentally violates an individual’s dignity, rights, and well-being. Sexual harassment creates an environment of fear and discomfort in the workplace. It hinders professional growth and diminishes […] The post PoSH Act 2013: The Safeguard Against Sexual Harassment appeared first on Chegg India.

PoSH Act 2013: The Safeguard Against Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment of an individual in the workplace is a grave concern to humanity. It may involve unwanted advances. Some other forms of harassment, both verbal and physical. It fundamentally violates an individual’s dignity, rights, and well-being. Sexual harassment creates an environment of fear and discomfort in the workplace. It hinders professional growth and diminishes productivity.

The PoSH Act 2013 was designed to combat these challenges. It provides a comprehensive framework to prevent and redress instances of sexual harassment. The Ministry of Women and Child Development

passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 (“PoSH Act”). It included three main elements. These are Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal. Thus, the PoSH full form is “Prevention of Sexual Harassment”.

This article explores the PoSH Act 2013. Its provisions, employer obligations, benefits of compliance, implementation strategies, and enforcement challenges.

Understanding Provisions Of The PoSH Act 2013

The PoSH Act was enacted to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers must offer female employees a secure and safe work environment.

The PoSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) Act 2013 has several key provisions. These provisions address workplace sexual harassment:

  1. Obligations of Employers under the Act
  2. Rights of Victims of Sexual Harassment
  3. Penalties for Non-compliance with the Act

Obligations of Employers under the Act

  • Every employer has to put up a notice in the workplace. The notice tells female employees about how they are protected from sexual harassment.
  • The law also says that organizations must set up Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs). This gives victims a specific place to speak up about what happened to them. The PoSH Act also ensures that victims’ information is confidential.
  • Employers with 10+ employees must have an ICC at each office or branch.
  • The ICC should have a female leader. At least 50% of members should be women.
  • The employer must carry out workshops, seminars, and awareness programs. This would sensitize employees to the provisions of the PoSH Act.

Rights of Victims of Sexual Harassment

  • According to Section 12 of the PoSH Act, the ICC can suggest specific measures to help the victim. These measures include transferring the employee who experienced harassment to a different workplace.
  • The victims have the right to a fair and impartial investigation process.
  • They can access support mechanisms and resources provided by the employer.
  • They have the right to protection from further harassment.

Penalties for Non-Compliance With the Act

  • In case of non-compliance with the provisions of the Act, employers must pay penalties.
  • They can be fined up to Rs. 50,000 if employers don’t follow the law,
  • For repeated non-compliance, the employer may face a penalty twice as severe.
  • Non-compliance can result in the government canceling the employer’s license. It can also cancel the registration for doing business.
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Benefits of Complying With PoSH

Complying with the PoSH Act 2013 brings several benefits to companies. It fosters a safer and more inclusive work environment.

  • The Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace is an important step in providing employees with a safe work environment.
  • This helps make awareness among the company’s employees and other stakeholders. It ensures a safer workplace.
  • Compliance with PoSH Act promotes a culture of respect and safety. It enhances employee morale and overall satisfaction.
  • Companies prioritizing compliance with the PoSH Act turn out to be safer workplaces. They attract top talents and keep employees for a longer period. 
  • Companies can save costs associated with legal battles and settlements. They can also prevent damage to their brand image. 
  • A workplace that actively addresses sexual harassment cultivates a harmonious work environment. It promotes collaboration and teamwork.
  • It gives employees the power to report instances of sexual harassment. They can also voice their concerns without hesitation. It also ensures the confidentiality of the proceedings.
  • It is beneficial in creating a more secure and tension-free environment for employees.

Strategies to Implement the PoSH Act

Implementing the PoSH Act requires strategic steps to create an effective organizational framework. It is achieved through establishing the ICC and Local Complaints Committees (LCC).

Steps for the Employer to Implement the Act

Some of the key strategies employers can adopt to enforce the PoSH Act are as follows:

1. Organisational PoSH Policy

  • The first step towards PoSH implementation is the organizational PoSH Policy.
  • Every organization must draft an organizational policy against sexual harassment in the workplace.

2. Constitute Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

  • An Internal Committee must be constituted if the organization has ten or more employees.
  • A senior female employee is considered as presiding officer.
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of the ICC. It may include receiving complaints, conducting investigations, and recommending actions.

3. Sensitize Employees

  • Educate employees about the policy and their rights regarding sexual harassment.
  • Conduct regular awareness and training programs. This will educate employees about sexual harassment, their rights, and the complaint process.
  • Communicate and display a sexual harassment policy in the workplace.
  • Employers should promote a culture of respect, equality, and zero tolerance for harassment.

Role of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) is crucial in implementing the PoSH Act 2013. The key responsibilities and functions of the ICC are as follows:

  • Drafting an organizational policy on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH).
  • Establish a formal complaint procedure and ensure employees are aware of it.
  • Show zero tolerance for harassment by taking appropriate disciplinary action.
  • Provide counselling services for both the complainant and the accused.
  • Coordinate with external authorities, such as the Local Complaints Committee (LCC).

What is the Local Complaints Committee and its Role?

The Local Complaints Committee (LCC) was created according to Section 6 of the PoSH Act. It is for organizations that don’t have an Internal Committee and have fewer than 10 employees. The LCC should have at least 50% women and five members. It includes the Chairperson and representatives.

  • Chairperson: A woman who is committed to the cause of women’s rights.
  • Two members with experience or knowledge in social work, women’s, or human rights.
  • At least one Member from a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

The key roles of LCC are discussed as follows:

  • They are established for the women working in the unorganized sector, like housekeeping staff.
  • They receive and address complaints of sexual harassment from employees who are unable to approach the ICC directly.

Challenges in Implementing the PoSH Act

The intentions behind the PoSH Act are positive. Yet, there were many challenges to implementing this.

1. Lack of Awareness and Understanding of the Act

  • It is important to understand the provisions and requirements of the PoSH Act.
  • In certain regions, there is still a lack of awareness about the Act. Thus, it gets challenging for victims to report incidents.
  • Inadequate dissemination of information regarding the PoSH Act.
  • Some organizations lack proper systems for addressing complaints. They may also have not taken steps to inform employees about their rights under the Act.

2. Social and Cultural Barriers in Reporting Sexual Harassment

  • In lots of communities, people feel ashamed or embarrassed about sexual harassment. This feeling makes them not want to talk about it or tell anyone. They might also worry that bad things will happen to them or that others will think poorly of them.
  • Workplace culture is one of the main barriers to reporting sexual harassment. If there is unfair treatment in the workplace, it stops someone from speaking up.
  • There are several cultural norms associated with sexual harassment. People even feel uncomfortable talking about it openly. These things make it difficult for someone to report sexual harassment.
  • Women fear filing complaints due to power dynamics and professional consequences.

3. Lack of Proper Procedure to Address Sexual Harassment

  • The absence of a dedicated ICC is one of the prime challenges in implementing the PoSH Act.
  • There is still inadequate implementation of policies and procedures within organizations. This may lead to improper handling of complaints.
  • Lack of counselling services and legal assistance to the victim.

Way Forward

Workplaces are changing quickly. It’s becoming more important to have a strict rule against sexual harassment at work. The PoSH Act is a significant law in India that aims to promote gender equality. It gives protection and rights to all employees. The Vishaka guidelines explain more about this law. The government has made important improvements to the PoSH Act. According to this law, employers must ensure the workplace is safe. Victims also get the right to be protected.

Every company has a legal duty to support employees who experience sexual harassment. They must educate everyone about it and ensure female employees are safe. Employers should have Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) to ensure everyone knows the rules. However, there are obstacles to overcome, like not knowing enough about the problem or facing social and cultural barriers to reporting. Workplaces must face these challenges and treat all employees with respect and dignity.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What are the Key points of the PoSH Act?

Some of the key points of the PoSH Act are:
1.The Act defines what actions and behaviour comprise the offence of sexual harassment.
2. The Act provides the constitution of the internal complaints committee.
3. The form and manner in the complaint must be made by the aggrieved woman stated by the Act.
4. Victims of sexual harassment have the right to file complaints and seek redressal.
5. Non-Compliance with the Act results in penalties such as fines and license cancellation.

What are the three major elements of the PoSH Act?

The PoSH Act has three major elements- prevention, prohibition, and redressal.
1. Prohibition: The Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. It promotes the creation of a safer environment.
2. Prevention: The Act promotes awareness, education, and establishing policies and guidelines. This helps in better implementation of the Act.
3. Redressal: Employers have legal obligations to establish ICC, which helps prevent harassment.

Who is covered under the PoSH Act 2013?

The PoSH Act protects every woman against sexual harassment, regardless of employment status. It means if she faces harassment in any workplace, she can complain. The Act also covers all employees in the private and public sectors. It protects women working in factories, shops, agricultural fields, etc.

What is the punishment in the PoSH Act?

If any individual misbehaves or does wrong, as mentioned in clause (i), clause (ii), or clause (iii) of sub-section 1 can go to jail. The jail time can be up to three years, and there may also be a fine. Even if employers don’t set up an ICC or break the law, they can be fined up to Rs. 50,000.

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