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What is PoSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment)?
In 2013, the Indian Government launched the Sexual Harrasement of Women at Work (Prevention, Ban and Redressal) Act and its regulations known as the PoSH Rules in a remarkable move to prepare a better and more accepting work atmosphere for female workers.
Is PoSH applicable to Startups, Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) ?
PoSH is relevant to each and every company/ firm/ workplace/ establishment/ organization comprising of more than 10 employees including both private and public sector companies, government bodies, ministries, NGOs, schools and colleges etc. The same includes all forms of businesses like a firm, shop, restaurant, movie theatre or a multi-national company. Further, PoSH is relevant even in those offices where there are only male employees in the workplace. Apart from this, there are heavy penalties against violation of the PoSH law which may even result in cancellation of license to carry out business. The employers, however, must look at complying with PoSH law not because of these heavy penalties but simply because a work environment with stringent laws against sexual harassment at workplace would in all probability result in greater growth of business.
What do Employers need to do for being compliant ?
a. Every office/ organization has to diligently formulate an internal policy for the prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment at workplace focused to publicize gender sensitive safe spaces and eliminate hidden factors that add towards a vicious work environment against women.
  b. Every office/ organization has to set-up an Internal Complaints Committee (IC) and must conduct training as well as orientation programs with seminars for its members.
   c. Every office/ organization has to carry out awareness as well as training programs for its employees to culture them about sexual harassment at workplace and the rectification available to them
   d. Every right and remedy available to every employee against sexual harassment must be broadcasted at the workplace, together with the names and contact details of all the IC members.
   e. Regular and relevant meetings must be conducted by the IC at the workplace to discuss issues and resolve matters of sexual harassment..
   f. Besides this, the IC needs to submit an annual report with complete data on the total number of complaints received and resolved to the District Officer concerned.
What are the responsibilities of an employer under PoSH ?
The following are the key responsibilities of an employer at a workplace:

a. Ensuring a safe and secured work environment at the workplace.
b. Ensuring a safe and secure workplace from the persons coming into contact with the employees.
c. Ensuring display of penal consequences against sexual harassments at all clearly visible places at workplace.
d. Conducting awareness workshop programmes at occasional intervals to make the employees understand the relevant provisions of law.
e. Conducting orientation programmes for IC members where the employer has to:
• Prepare and widely publicize a charter, an internal policy or a resolution or a declaration for prevention, prohibition and rectification of sexual harassment at work deliberated to promote gender empathetic safe workplaces as well as terminate undisclosed features that add towards a barbarous environment at work against women.
• Institute orientation seminars and programmes for the IC members.
• To set-up awareness programmes for employees and institute meetings for communication
• Implementation of skill and ability building programmes for the IC members at workplace.
• Broadcasting of contact details with names of all the IC members at workplace.
• Take advantage of programmes created by State Governments to accomplish awareness programmes as well as workshops empathizing the employees with the law.
a. Prepare important provisions to the IC to deal with the complaints and subsequent inquiries.
b. Assist in safeguarding the attendance of the accused as well as the witnesses before the IC.
c. Furnish information of the complaint to the IC.
d. Offer and provide assistance to the victim if and when she decides to register a complaint with regards to the offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
e. Initiating action under IPC or any other appropriate law, against the accused, or if the victim so chooses, where the accused is not an employee, in the office where the sexual harassment took place.
f. Combating sexual harassment as a crime under the office laws and further take appropriate action against perpetrators for such crimes.
g. Scrutinize the in-time acceptance of reports by the IC.
What are the various government reporting requirements for employer to follow the PoSH law and consequences of noncompliance to Law ?
Every year, the IC set up at a workplace must plan and deliver an early report to the employer as well as the District Officer. The full information of the total number of cases reported, the total number of cases disposed of, and the total number of training campaigns and workshops held by the organization on sexual harassment must be given in this annual report.

Besides this, the government can ask any employer to submit all the information pertaining to sexual harassment at that workplace. Moreover, the government can also scrutinize the workplace as well as its records where each employer has to participate.

Under the PoSH law, any non-compliance of the law or any provision of the law by an employer can result in a penalty of up to Rs. 50,000/- which can even include cancellation of license to carry out business if there has been habitual non-compliance of the laws.

What is an IC ?
An IC is an Internal Complaints Committee at a workplace to receive and redress complaints pertaining to sexual harassment at workplace. An IC is required to consist of a minimum of 4 members where these members can hold office for 3 years at a stretch:

• The presiding officer of an IC has to be a woman employed at a senior position in the office and has to be one of the employees at the workplace.
• 2 internal members from workplace. According to the law, these 2 members, employers must prefer to have employees committed to the cause of aggrieved women employees or who have prior experience in social work with appropriate legal knowledge.
• 1 external member from amongst NGOs or associations/ institutions that are committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment (“External Member”).The PoSH law further directs that at least half of the total members of the IC must be women.
Who can be an external member in the IC ?

• from an NGO committed to the cause and upliftment of women
• a lawyer who may have expertise in the matter
• associations / Organization committed to the cause and upliftment of women
• any person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment
Can the IC Members including external member be reappointed post 3 years of Term ?
Yes . You may reappoint the IC members.
In some organisations there are complain boxes, so if there is an anonymous complaint what do we do in this situation ?
For the proceedings to happen, it is important for complainant to identify herself/himself. Anonymous complaints cannot be pursued further.
What if the accused employee says, “It was only a joke”?
It is also widely noted that in defense, an employee accused of sexual harassment claims it was not intended that way or it was just a joke. However, if the person making a complaint, as described by statute, feels sexually harassed, it will also amount to sexual harassment at work.
What if an employee of my organisation is accused of sexual harassment by a female employee of another company ?
In this case, the investigation and redressal process will sit in the organisation from which the female employee belongs. Your organisation will need to support the investigation process from time to time.
Is it only for working women ?
No, it is for every woman who may get harassed at a workplace. It could be a visitor, freelancer, consultant or a customer, literally any woman who is visiting your workplace. Could be your direct employee, also an employee on a third-party payroll.

Creating a sexual harassment free workplace