This Article focuses on adoption and implemention of POSH Laws in an organisation to ensure a safe working environment to women.
Briefly speaks about the framework of the POSH laws like the constitution of the committees,its roles and responsibilities,its consonance with Companies Act and the penal provision for its violation.
> Sexual harassment at a workplace is considered violation of women’s right to equality, life and liberty. It creates an insecure and hostile work environment, which discourage women’s participation in work, thereby adversely affecting their social and economic empowerment and the goal of inclusive growth.
> The victims of sexual harassment face several physiological effects, such as stress, shame, guilt, depression and no employee would be able to work optimally while being in such a situation. In order to overcome the menace and for overall protection from sexual harassment against women, the Government enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This Act is popularly known as the POSH Act. The Act along with the POSH rules are together known as the POSH laws.
Legistative Timeline of POSH Act and POSH Rules
|Year of Passing||Actions Taken|
|2007||Draft Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2007 (“Bill”) approved by the Union Cabinet.|
|2010||The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha.|
|2012||The Bill was amended and re-introduced in the Lok Sabha.|
|September 03,2013||The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and and Redressal) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha.|
|February 26,2013||The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Rajya Sabha.|
|April 23,2013||The POSH Act received the President’s assent and was published in the Gazette of India.|
|December 09,2013||The Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development notified December 09, 2013 as the effective date of the POSH Act and the POSH Rules.|
Applicability & Scope
> Applicable Jurisdiction: It extends to the whole of India.
> “Aggrieved women” means‑
(i) In relation to a workplace,a woman, of any age whether employed or not,who alleges to have been subjected to any act of Sexual harassment by the respondent;
(ii) In relation to a dwelling place or house, a woman of any age who is employed in such a dwelling place or
> “Sexual Harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely-
(i) Physical contact and advances
(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours;or
(iii) Making sexually coloured remarks
(iv) Showing pornography
(v) Any other unwelcome physical,verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature.
> “Employer” means-
(i) In relation to any department,organisation,undertaking,establishment,institution,branch or unit of the appropriate govt or local authority,head of that department,organisation,establishment,undertaking,enterprise,institution,office,branch or unit or such other officer as the appropriate government may specify;
(ii) Other than (i)any person responsible for management,supervision and control of the workplace
> “Workplace” includes-
(i) Anydepartment,organisation,undertaking,establishment,enterprises,institution,office,branch which is established/owned or controlled or wholly/substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate government / Local Authority / Government Company / Corporation / Co-operative Society;
(ii) Any private sector / Private ventures /Undertaking / Establishment / Society / Trust carrying Commercial / Professional / Vocational / Educational / Entertainment / Health Services including production,sale,supply,sale,distribution or service;
(iii) Hospitals or Nursing Homes;
(iv) Sports Institute/Stadium/Sports Complex whether residential or not used for training ,sports or other activities;
(v) Any place visited by the employee rising out of or during the course of employment including the transportation provided by employer for undertaking such journey;
(vi) A dwelling place or a house
Compliance of POSH Act
> An important feature of POSH Act is that it focuses on setting up of a grievance redressal forum.Every employer of a workplace shall constitute a Committee known as “Internal Complaints Committee”.Constitution of the ICC committee:
|1||Chairperson/Presiding Officer||Women employed at a senior level at the workplace amongst the employees, if not available then nominated from other units / dept of the same employer.|
|2||Members-2(minimum)||From amongst employees committed to the cause of women/ having legal knowledge/experience in social work|
|3||External Member||From NGO/associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issue of Sexual Harassment|
❖Not less than half of the IC Members shall be women;
❖The Term of the IC Members shall not exceed 3 years from the date of their nomination;
❖A minimum of 3 Members of the IC including the Presiding Officer are to be present for conducting the inquiry
Constitution of Local Compliants Committee-
❖ Government may notify District Magistrate/ Additional Magistrate/Collector/ Deputy Collector as a district officer for every district to exercise powers and functions under this Act ;
❖ Every district officer shall constitute in the district concerned a committee known as “Local Compliants Committee” to receive complains of sexual harassment where ICC has not been constituted due to having less than ten workers or if the compliant is against the employer himself ;
❖ District officer shall designate one nodal officer in every taluka,tehsil,ward, to receive compliants and forward the same to Local Compliants Committee.
> The Local Compliant Committee shall consist of the following members to be nominated by the District Officer:-
|1.||Chairperson||Eminent women in the filed of social work|
|2||Internal Member-One||Women working in Taluka/Tehsil/Ward/Municipality|
|3||External Member-Two||One member from the non governmental organization/association and other women belonging to Schedule caste/Schedule Tribe/Backward classes.|
|4||Concerned officer(Ex- Officio)||Dealing with social welfare of women and child.|
Roles & Responsibilities
Employers/ District Officers have a legal responsibility to:
1. Formulate and widely disseminate an internal policy or charter or resolution for prohibition,prevention,redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace intended to promote gender sensitive safe spaces and remove underlying factors that contribute towards a hostile work environment against women;
2. Carry out awareness and orientation for all employees.
3. Create forums for dialogue i.e. Panchayati Raj Institutions, Gram Sabhas, Women’s Groups, Urban Local Bodies or like bodies as may be considered necessary;
4. Ensure capacity and skill building programmes for the members of Complaints Committees.
5. Use modules to conduct workshops and awareness programs for sensitising the employees
Who can file a complain-
Aggrieved women or
Where she is unable to make a compliant on account of her physical incapacity then can be filed by
i) Relative or friend; or
ii) Co-worker; or
iii) An officer of National Commission for women or State Women’s Commission ;or
iv) Any other person with the written consent of the aggrieved women.
> Where the aggrieved women is unable to make a compliant on account of her mental incapacity compliant may be filed by
i) Relative/Friend; or
ii) Special Educator; or
iii) Psychiatrist/Psychologist; or
iv) Any other appropriate person as prescribed under the Act.
> Where the aggrieved women is dead,it can be filed by his/her legal heir.
Preparation of Annual Report under the Act
The annual report prepared by the Internal Compliants Committee shall have the following the details
i) Number of compliants of sexual harassment received in the year;
ii) Number of compliants disposed off;
iii) Number of cases pending for more than 90 days;
iv)Number of workshops against sexual harsassment carried out;
v) Nature of action taken by employer/District officer.
> It is the duty of the ICC to submit the annual report to the employer/management of the organization.
> In case of companies,directors report contains a section that the company should adhere to the compliances of POSH Act. The management of the organization has a statutory obligation to ensure that this report is included in the Annual Report filed by the company to the Registrar of Companies.
Non-compliance can cost an employer a monetary penalty of INR 50,000 on account of-
> Failure to constitute Internal Complaints Committee
> Failure to act upon recommendations of the Complaints Committee; or
> Failure to file an annual report with the District Officer where required; or
> Contravening or attempting to contravene or abetting contravention of the Act or Rules.
Where an employer repeats a breach under the Act, they shall be subject to:
> Twice the punishment or higher punishment if prescribed under any other law for the same offence.
> Cancellation/Withdrawal/Non-renewal of registration/license required for carrying on business or activities.