Many women at the word level experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, yet the majority of these incidents go unreported, making it difficult to get an accurate count of how pervasive the problem truly is. In the recent past, we saw the #MeToo movement in India as well. The year 2018 saw the rise of the #MeToo movement in India when women opened up about sexual harassment and assault, women across the spectrum opened up and shared their stories about abuse by men in positions of power.
Recently on February 25, 2020, the hon’ble supreme court of India in a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed in a verdict that “Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”
To provide a safe working environment for women, the Ministry of Women and Child Development enacted and passed SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013 in the year 2013. The POSH Act has been enacted to prevent and protect women against workplace sexual harassment and to ensure effective redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.
Let’s understand the Applicability, Composition of Committee, Compliance, Reporting under this Act.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act at workplace Act applies to every workplace, establishment, company or organization irrespective of its location or nature of the industry.
1. Constitution of Committee: There are two types of Committees:
a. Internal Committee*(IC): Every establishment with more than 10 workers are required to form an Internal Committee.
b. Local Committee*(LC): Every District Officer shall constitute a Local Committee to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishment having less than 10 workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself.
* The words Internal Committee and Local Committee are substituted in the POSH Act Amendment 2016. Earlier they were Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local Complaints Committee(LCC).
2. Policy: Formulation of an internal POSH policy for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at workplaces.
3. Training Programmes: Workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for employees and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committee are also required to be carried out by the organisation.
4. Annual Report: The organizations are also required to file an annual report with the information of the number of sexual harassment complaints received in a year, the number of complaints disposed of in a year, cases pending etc.
5. Display of Order: Every employer shall display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassment and the order constituting the Internal Committee.
DISCLOSURE UNDER DIRECTORS REPORT:
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has amended Companies (Accounts) Rules, 2014 by a notification dated July 31, 2018, on request made by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.
By this amendment, it is now mandatory for every company except Small Company and One Person Company to disclose that the company has complied with the provisions regarding the constitution of Internal Committee under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
COMPOSITION OF INTERNAL COMMITTEE (IC):
Every employer of a workplace shall by an order in writing, constitute a Committee known as the “Internal Committee”. The composition of the committee is as follows:
|1||Presiding Officer||Women employed at a senior level at the workplace from amongst the employees. If senior-level women employee is not available, then nominated from other offices or administrative units of the same employer.|
|2||Minimum 2 members||From amongst employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge.|
|3.||1 Member||From amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.|
Provided that at least one-half of the total Members so nominated shall be women.
COMPOSITION OF LOCAL COMMITTEE (LC):
Every District Officer shall constitute in the district concerned, a committee is known as the “Local Committee” to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the Internal Committee has not been constituted due to having less than 10 workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself. The composition of the committee is as follows:
|1||Chairperson||From amongst the eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women.|
|2||1 member||From amongst the women working in the block, taluka or tehsil or ward or municipality in the district.|
|3.||Minimum 2 members||Of whom at least one shall be a woman, to be nominated from amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
Provided that at least one of the nominees should preferably have a background in law or legal knowledge.
Provided further that at least one of the nominees shall be a woman belonging to SC/ST/OBC/Minority Community notified by the Government.
|4.||Concerned Officer||Dealing with the social welfare or women or child development in the district, shall be a member ex officio.|
1. The Internal Committee or Local Committee shall in each calendar year prepare an annual report which includes the number of cases filed/disposed of and submit the same to the employer and the District Officer or where no such report is required to be prepared, intimate such number of cases, if any, to the District Officer.
2. The District Officer shall forward a brief report on the annual reports received to the State Government.
3. The employer has a statutory obligation to ensure this report is included in the annual report of the organisation filed to the Registrar of Companies.
WHO IS A DISTRICT OFFICER(DO)?
The State Government will notify a District Magistrate/Additional District Magistrate/ Collector/ Deputy Collector as a District Officer at the local level. The District Officer will be responsible for carrying out the powers and functions under the Act at the district levels (including every block, taluka, tehsil, ward, and municipality).
The employer shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs. 50,000, if he fails to :
Where any employer after having been previously convicted of an offence punishable under this Act subsequently commits and is convicted of the same offence, he shall be punishable to :