Need to strengthen POSH Act

Does POSH Act include protection of men facing harassment at workplace ?
sexual harassment
10 Aug 2019

Need to strengthen Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act

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Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act at the workplace came into existence in December 2013 in India. The purpose of this legislation was enacted to provide for prevention, protection, prohibition, and redressal of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

What’s Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH)

POSH act requires organizations across the nation to carry out certain steps:

  • Companies should create and implement a sexual harassment policy
  • Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to address complaints should be in place.
  • Employees should be made aware of sexual harassment as per the act and other details
  • Annual report to be submitted to the district magistrate detailing the efforts made to make the workplace inclusive, welcoming and safe.

The implementation in the last six years has been encouraging but not very effective. Some organizations have embraced the act in both letter and spirit but there is still some distance to go for it to be implemented in totality in several organizations. Many organisations are creating the mechanism to implement POSH on paper, only to meet the legal requirement.

Impact of #Metoo movement

The recent #Metoo movement has created some sense of urgency that has propelled several organizations to take meaningful action in this area. With many celebrities talking about sexual harassment in public, there is increased awareness about it.

How POSH deals with FALSE Sexual Harassment at the workplace?

Lot of articles and data reports are doing the rounds in media highlighting the loopholes present in the POSH Act. One such loophole is that of malicious or fake complaints being filed to exact revenge, discredit certain senior executives or public figures and gain monetary benefits out of settlements. Malicious complaints are those complaints which are filed with a malicious intent; i.e., an intention to harm.

POSH act dies provide for redressal of false complaints and punitive actions against a complainant who raises malicious complaints. The act speaks about confidentiality, proper investigation and due process to be followed before taking action against the respondent. This should be made part of the policies and awareness sessions of employees as well as complaints committees.

Any type of sexual harassment is not good for employee morale or productivity so it is important that

  • The awareness sessions for employees needs to regularised, monitored and reviewed
  • Once a year sessions subject to budget availability should not be an option
  • Frequent checks to see that employees have truly understood what the law states and are acting in accordance should be carried out
  • Online test is a tool that can be leveraged

In addition, training of the Internal complaints committee to be able to carry out an unbiased investigation within the stipulated timelines, come up with finding and recommendations and get them implemented by the employer.

A panel of experts participated in a recent consultation on the POSH Act. The panel suggested that the act should be broadened to incorporate the ill behavior women face based on gender. The panel also advised that the Act should have an even widened scope which includes protection of men, who encounter harassment at their workplace.

The POSH act is a good start. As we learn from our experiences, we will need to make it more encompassing to make it become more effective and less susceptible to potential abuse.