The POSH Act in India and Why Organizations Should Invest in POSH Awareness Sessions
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act was introduced in India in 2013 to protect women in the workplace from sexual harassment. The Act defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature and mandates that all employers with 10 or more employees must establish an Internal Committee (IC) to handle complaints of sexual harassment. The Act also requires that employers provide a safe and harassment free workplace for their employees.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) law and policy in India currently includes all employees, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, who work in an organization with more than 10 employees. The law applies to all workplaces, including the organized (organizations with 10 or more employees) and unorganized (organizations with less than 10 employees) sectors, and covers both formal (office) and informal (conferences/ parties, etc.) workplace settings.
While the POSH law is restricted to women’s safety, the all inclusivity policy can be applied by organizations to ensure that all employees, irrespective of gender and all human beings, regardless of whether they are full-time employees, daily wagers, part-time support, interns, contractual workers, or visitors, are all covered under the policy.
Hence, it is mandate that the Internal Committee (IC) should be composed of both men and women and that the IC should be trained to handle complaints of sexual harassment in an inclusive and sensitive manner. The policy also encourages organizations to adopt a zerotolerance approach towards sexual harassment and to create a culture of respect and equality in the workplace.
While the POSH Act has been in place for several years now, sexual harassment remains a prevalent issue in many workplaces in India. Therefore, it is important for organizations to invest in POSH awareness sessions to ensure that their employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities and to create a safe and inclusive workplace. I would also go a step further and say that employers should have in-person awareness sessions rather than online sessions that are completed with check marks. By having engaging and interactive awareness sessions, employees across genders understand what to do and what not to do, as well as what to accept and where to draw the line. This enhances people’s understanding and also credits the organization’s intent to protect their employees genuinely, not just because they are mandated to as per the law.
One of the main reasons why organizations should invest in POSH awareness sessions is that it helps create a safe and harassment-free workplace. Often, when we educate employees on what constitutes sexual harassment, we hear a lot of live cases which people across genders have gone through and sometimes perhaps didn’t know how to draw boundaries. In fact, very recently, I was watching a short-film on Amazon Mini TV called ‘Gray’ directed by a very close friend, Sakshi Gurnani. The film is based on ‘consent’ and, interestingly, I noticed that sometimes, despite being uncomfortable, we human beings are unable to create the boundaries that are right for us.
So, through the awareness programs, we are able to discuss methods and tools which we are comfortable to use in order to create boundaries. Furthermore, taking a step ahead to report instances that are unwelcome and how to do so without hesitation and with confidence. This, in turn, can help prevent incidents of sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace and create a more inclusive and respectful workplace culture.
While the law benefits the employees, it also benefits the organization, so they can avoid reputational damage. Incidents of sexual harassment can not only result in legal action and financial penalties but can also damage an organization’s reputation. By creating a safe and inclusive workplace, organizations can protect their reputation and maintain the trust and loyalty of their customers and stakeholders.
Another important reason of how the POSH law can benefit the organization is that by educating employees on the importance of inclusion, and diversity, they can create a workplace culture that values and respects all employees, regardless of their gender or other personal characteristics. This, in turn, can lead to increased employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
There are two major aspects of POSH in an organization:
1) Implementing the POSH law and creating an IC for the same
2) Conducting awareness programs for the employees
A POSH consultant offers two services:
First one is an end-to-end consultation that includes everything from creating the policy drafts to awareness training programs for the employees and the internal committee (IC). Creating and submitting the annual report to the government of India, and lastly, being an external member on the IC.
The second one being conducting end-to-end awareness programs for the employees on the POSH law, the function of the IC, how to set boundaries, how to register complaints and the process from beginning to end, including the emotional challenges that they may be faced with.
In conclusion, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act in India mandates that all employers establish an Internal Committee (IC) to handle complaints of sexual harassment and provide a safe and harassment-free workplace for their employees. To ensure compliance with the Act and create a safe and inclusive workplace, organizations should invest in POSH awareness sessions. These sessions can help create a culture of zero-tolerance towards sexual harassment, comply with legal requirements, avoid reputational damage, create a positive workplace culture, and address issues of gender inequality and discrimination. By investing in POSH awareness sessions, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to creating a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.