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A long Way To Go Into Redressal Of Sexual Harassment Complaints At Oganistions

While most efforts are going into redressal of sexual harassment complaints at organizations, little is being done to prevent it!

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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The Uber case has brought Sexual Harassment at Workplace, once again to the limelight. And this is all for good! It is an important issue which deserves more than the fitful attention; it receives when high-profile cases are in the frame.

The major issue of sexual harassment is addressed by the two pillars in India; firstly the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and the other one being the Local Complaints Committee (LCC), both of these are mandatorily constituted under The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Undoubtedly the two pillars have aided in reducing the number of cases but the problem has not been resolved from its roots. The prime attention has always been on the redressal of sexual harassment complaints but little is being done for the prevention.
How can prevention be done?

"    Sensitizing the employees: Sometimes it is seen that the employees do not have an idea of what their behaviour might amount to. Organization should evolve ways to sensitize employees in a true manner. It is often seen that the training of employees is done on the last day without actually getting sensitized. Sensitizing the employees should be the utmost task of the organization. There is only a thin line of difference between workplace healthy flirting and sexual harassment.
"    Addressing the issues: In order to prevent sexual harassment, firstly there is a need to address the issues which employees face. So, an open discussion forum or a query hotline should be implemented in the organization to address such issues.
"    Process to address anonymous complaints: A certain process should be laid down in organizations for anonymous complaints either hotline numbers or anonymous emails facilities should be provided so that people can express their issues without making a formal complaint. Although the companies can't take any major actions against the accused as the complaints are anonymous, but they can always counsel the person behind the closed doors. Getting deeper into the matter to know the truth before acting in haste is a better option. This is a clever way through which companies can prevent sexual harassment and address certain small issues at initial levels which may become fledged complaints later on.
"    Create confidence: According to a data by EY, 98% organizations indicated that they would provide assistance to women if they choose to file complaints. Organizations must find ways to generate confidence amongst female employees to come up and discuss such issues. Creating confidence is very important, whether the employee's complaint or not, but they should feel safe within the culture of their workplace.
"    Email engagement: Company should be sending emails talking about sexual harassment issues to keep the awareness of the topic alive in the organisation's Methods to engage with the employees and creating a dialogue is need of the hour.
"    Proactiveness: The team leaders or senior managers need to keep an eye on the activities within their team and should proactively identify if any such issues are cropping up in the team or if any team member has witnessed any such issue.
"    Strict actions: Organisations shouldn't hesitate to take strict actions against a person who has been proved as a defaulter even though is an asset to the organisation, to set an example.
"    Feedback: HR should ideate ways to take feedback from employees. They should ensure that the employees are aware and contended about initiatives taken on sexual harassment and if any feedback is received then the same can be discussed in town hall meetings by the chairman or MD without disclosing the names.

Prevention is better than cure. There is a gap between addressing and redressing the sexual harassment complaints and that gap can be filled by prevention of sexual harassment. The gap can be bridged by some prevention models. One such model is Centre 4 POSH which not only aims to prevent sexual harassment through sensitization but also helps in training HR and ICC members in a novel way as training is a vital part of the prevention process. According to a study conducted by EY, 40% companies are yet to train their ICC members even though the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 mandates it. Centre 4 POSH provides backend support to the organization by giving a mechanism to redress the complaints through various documents and studies.

Addressing the smaller issue before they become bigger problems is the key to eliminate sexual harassment. The focus should shift upon sensitizing the employees as when more and more employees are aware of sexual harassment; the chances of eliminating sexual harassment at workplaces will increase organically.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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sexual harassment corporate opinion

Kanishk Agarwal

The author is Founder, CriTaxCorp

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