It is quite evident that India is paving the way for a more gender- balanced workforce, which makes it imperative that strong public opinion against sexual harassment prevails around us. In the past years, an increase in the levels of awareness is witnessed through training and consistent communication from a compliance standpoint. The reason for acceptability needs to go beyond not just the complying requirement for the sake of compliance procedure but to resonate with the individuals at a more personal level.
Since the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 w.e.f. 9 Dec. 2013, companies have been striving to ensure their compliance with this act. In the initial phase of this transition, the companies are required to deal with the intricacies of equipping their management and the internal complaints committee with the appropriate understanding and tools to address such cases. The next phase is completely different with respect to the enforcement of acceptable behaviour and principles mandated as per the act, which are to be interpreted on basis of individual cases brought before the internal committee for investigation, by all the parties involved. It is this stage, when the company needs to appropriately enforce the provisions of the act to get the right message across all the levels of managerial hierarchy by setting the right tone within the company.
Recently the economic times a leading newspaper had published an article over the issue of non-compliance of the 2013 act, referring to a joint report by FICCI and ERNST & YOUNG titled ‘FOSTERING SAFE WORKPLACE’. According to this news article, it was foundthat nearly 36% of Indian companies and around 25% of the MNCs are not compliant of the sexual harassment act 2013. Cases of sexual harassment have been on rise in 2014, according to the report of the national commission for women (NCW). From 249 reported complaints in 2013, the number has doubled in the year 2014 to 526 complaints. The survey by FICCI for their report shows that at least 31% of the respondents were found not compliant with the provisions of the act since its enactment, within which the constitution of internal complaint committee is mandated to address the complaints.The Act is in place to further the cause of good governance practices in workplaces and provide a safe working environment to the women employees.
The failure to comply with the requirements of the act, led to the formation of a gap in the level to awareness among the employees about the implications of the Act in their lives. It was reported that about 40% of the respondents are yet to train their internal complaint committee members.
Indian companies had fared very low with 47% compliance rate while the MNCs stood at 34%. It was further reported that nearly 35% of the companies were not at all aware about the penal consequences for non-compliance of the statutory regulations while 44% did not even display the posters about the penal consequences of non-compliance of the act’s provisions. It is only the SME sector that fared low among the total number of Indian companies with 71% non-compliance being only for failure to display clearly the penalties with the premises.
There are certain key factors that are significant for the successful implementation of theSexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
- Invoking a strong sense of commitment to this cause:
For any cause to be successful, it is necessary to invoke a strong sense of commitment towards the realisation of a particular result. All efforts are to be direct to the achievement of that motive. The ones responsible for the implementation of the legislations are to be trainedfully to anticipate the cause and effect of their decisions and be able to sensitize their colleagues of the effects of non-compliance of the law.
- Using diligent investigative mechanism:
The investigative mechanism set up to deal with the complaints of sexual harassment should be diligent enough to identify the genuine cases of harassment from the frivolous ones. It would ensure transparency in the whole procedure of investigation and maintain an air of vigil in the workplace making the employees safe against any discrimination.
- Manage issues effectively:
The internal complaint committee would be receiving a gamut of complaints of varied facts and circumstances ranging from minor issues of un-warranted flirting to major cases of severe harassment like abuse of power, serious abusive work relationship, etc. This situation would require the internal committee to keep themselves aware about the day-to-day happening within the company to have a clear picture of every complain put forth before them.
- Creation of a mechanism to address different perspective:
The nature of sexual harassment at work place has been perpetual as different people in the same organisation view it differently. This may be a major issue causing a communication gap within the workplace. To overcome this type of situation, it is essential that all employees are educated about the basics of what constitutes a sexual harassment case in work place scenario.
Hence, to conclude the discussion it can be summarised that despite the recent enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and widespread clamor about this problem, the people who are really affected by the harassment are not getting theredressal.
This happens mainly due to the complacent attitude of the higher authorities and peers who are themselves not updated about the implications of this problem.Proper awareness and sensitization of all employees will lead to the successful implementation of the objective of this act.