Fostering safe workplaces

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With increasing representation of women, India aspires to create gender equality among its working population. While physical safety and security of women is an important aspect, corporates are serious about addressing women’s concerns about sexual harassment at workplace. The past years have seen awareness levels increase significantly, through training and consistent communication.

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

The Act aims to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at the workplace and the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for connected matters. The provisions laid under the Act aim to protect the interest of all women employees and fuel the adoption of good governance practices.

Expectations from organizations

Invoke a strong commitment to this cause: Organizations need to focus on giving appropriate training to employees so they are aware of the nature and scope of sexual harassment at the workplace. They also need to advocate a zero tolerance policy and, at the same time, encourage women to report such incidents in time.

Put in place diligent investigative mechanisms: Organizations must conduct thorough investigations into complaints, and in cases where malafide intent is found, take strict disciplinary action against the complainant to ensure that there is no misuse. All managers and supervisors could be instructed to keep a vigil in the workplace and report any untoward incident to the senior management at the earliest.

Create a mechanism to address different perspectives: A key area of concern in sexual harassment at the workplace is its perceptual nature, which may be viewed differently by different individuals. These divergent opinions could be due to many reasons, including a communication gap that may have been developed over a period of time. Hence it is essential that at the very onset, every employee needs to be educated to understand what may constitute sexual harassment.

Manage issues effectively: The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) tends to receive a gamut of complaints which vary in nature and intensity. Regular skill building workshops for the ICC, awareness sessions that percolate down to the grass-root level (junior-most employee or contractor), a non-prejudiced and fair ICC, swift and timely action by them, employers’ initiative to deter such improper behavior, setting the tone correctly at the top are some of the ways that organizations can effectively combat sexual harassment at the workplace.