According to a survey by EY Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services titled “Reining in sexual harassment at the workplace”.Corporate India’s commitment to empower and protect its women employees against sexual harassment at the workplace is unsatisfactory. The survey highlights that growing consciousness of issues relating to women’s safety at the workplace has compelled many organisations to take note of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 (referred as the ‘Act’); but the implementation and subsequent change is taking place at a sluggish pace.
The following points encapsulate the key findings from the survey:
- The results of the survey indicated that over a quarter (27%) of the large companies and 50% of the small and medium companies that were surveyed were not compliant with the Act with respect to training their ICC members.This clearly shows that there is still a long way to go to address the issue of posh at the workplace.
- 12% of the respondents were of the opinion that malicious complaints increase after appraisals and 50% of the respondents were unclear about the genuineness of the complaints received after assessment of the performance of employees.
- This indicates the challenges in ascertaining if the complaints received are malicious or frivolous, as it is difficult to verify the legitimacy of any complaints without thorough investigations and assessments.
35% of the respondents were unaware of the penal clause for non-compliance with laws relating to how an ICC should be constituted.
- This could be a serious problem for companies as under the Act; they can face a penalty of INR 50,000 for their first violation and double for subsequent ones. In addition, there will be a damaging impact on the reputation of the entity.
- 44% of the respondents’ organisations did not display the penal consequences of sexual harassment at conspicuous places. With the rise of informal work environments, this could prove to a major impediment as employees may not know that offhand comments or inappropriate behaviour could have serious repercussions.
The Act applies to an “aggrieved woman,” which is a woman, of any age and whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment. It also makes it mandatory for all establishments employing 10 or more employees to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). This means that it applies to a large number of entities in India and there is very little they can do to dodge their responsibility.