India has recently passed the The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Sexual Harassment Act“) and has made the law effective w.e.f April 23, 2013. This law categorically states that “No women shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace”. We take a look at some of the basic tenets of this Act and list out what it requires an employer to ensure –
What is sexual harassment according to the Act?
According to the Act, ‘sexual harassment’ includes any one or more of the following unwelcome behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely: i. Physical contact or advances; or ii. A demand or request for sexual favours; or iii. Making sexually coloured remarks; or iv. Showing pornography; or v. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Does the Act specify what includes ‘Workplace’?
Yes. The Act makes an elaborate note of the types of workplace that come under the ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace law. This includes:
i. Any Govt. company, corporation, co-operative society, local authority including all their branches and departments.
ii. Every private sector organisation, enterprise, society, trust, institution
iii. Hospitals and nursing homes
iv. Every sports institute, games venue, stadium
v. Any place visited by the employee arising out of the employment including transportation provided by the employer for such a journey;
vi. Any residential place or house.
What are the duties of an ‘Employer’ with regard to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act?
The Act makes an elaborate note of the duties of an employer in ensuring compliance with the Act:
Duties Regarding Internal Complaints Committee: Every employer employing more than 10 people in his business unit is compulsorily required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee in writing and ensure the following:
i. Provide necessary facilities to the ICC for dealing with the complaint and conducting an enquiry.
ii. Assist in securing the attendance of the respondent and witnesses before the ICC.
iii. Provide the ICC with information that it may require.
iv. Help the female employee if she chooses to file a complaint with the IPC.
v. Initiate action against the perpetrator responsible for alleged sexual harassment.
vi. Monitor the timely submission of reports by the ICC.
Other Duties Of The Employer:
i. Provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety of the persons coming into contact at the workplace.
ii. Display at any conspicuous place at the workplace the penal consequences of sexual harassment and the order constituting the Internal Committee under the Act.
iii. Organize workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitizing employees on the issues and implications of workplace sexual harassment and organizing orientation programmes for members of the Internal Complaints Committee.
iv. Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for the same. misconduct.