An employer with a workplace having 10 or more than 10 employees is required to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and undertake compliance requirements under the POSH Act 2013.
The act embodies anti sexual harassment compliance law for the employers to adopt and elaborates in detail the process of adjudication of a sexual harassment complaint received by an employer within an organization.
An aggrieved woman i.e. a woman whether employed or not including woman visiting the workplace who allege to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment shall make a complaint with the internal grievance committee of employer that is called Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) that conducts the inquiry and provides relief to the aggrieved woman.
An act of sexual harassment is any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication namely– i. physical contact and 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 nonverbal conduct of sexual nature
Formation of Internal Complaints Committee:
To form an ICC comprising of 1 senior female employee, 2 members from employees having socio- legal knowledge and interests, 1 external member who can be a lawyer or NGO worker having experience in dealing with sexual harassment cases.
Process of filing complaints: six (6) copies have to be served to the ICC by the aggrieved woman within three (3) months of the incident or otherwise as allowed by the ICC on valid grounds of delay. Within seven (7) days, copy of the complaint is served to the respondent/accused. Within ten (10) days, the respondent has to file a written reply along with the supporting documents to the ICC. For a period of maximum Ninety (90) days from the filing of written complaint by the aggrieved woman, the inquiry has to be completed by the ICC and an inquiry report has to be prepared.
Process of conducting inquiry: The ICC shall conduct evidence, summon witnesses, cross examine the witnesses on the basis of the material on record filed along with the complaint and written reply of the respondent.
Pending inquiry, interim relief can be granted by ICC by transferring the aggrieved woman to a different branch or office or temporary suspension of the respondent.
Final award/relief of the inquiry shall be punitive or compensatory in accordance with the service policy of the employer company or disciplinary actions shall be awarded including written apology, salary withhold, warning letters, compensation to the aggrieved woman from the remuneration of the respondent. In an event, the compensation so awarded is not paid by the respondent, the same is recovered from the respondent as arear of land revenue by the District officer.
Employer’s Duties and Obligations
- In addition to requiring an employer to set up an ICC and ensure redressal of grievances of workplace harassment in a time bound manner, the POSH Act casts certain other obligations upon an employer which includes:
- Promoting a gender sensitive workplace and removing the underlying factors that contribute towards creating a hostile working environment against women;
- provide a safe working environment;
- formulate and widely disseminate an internal policy or charter or resolution or declaration for prohibition, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace;
- display conspicuously at the workplace, the penal consequences of indulging in acts that may constitute sexual harassment and the composition of the ICC;
- declare the names and contact details of all members of the ICC;
- 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 ICC;
- provide necessary facilities to the ICC for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry;
- cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”) or any other law in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place;
- Provide assistance to the aggrieved woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the IPC or any other law for the time being in force;
- Treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for misconduct;
- Prepare an annual report with details on the number of cases filed and their disposal and submit the same to the District Officer; monitor the timely submission of reports by ICC
The Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy – Some tips to follow
Mention how the employer practices zero-tolerance towards sexual harassment at workplace; Complaint mechanism; Regularly distribute and promote the policy at all levels of the organization; Ensure that the policy is easily accessible; Provide a copy of the policy to new joinees as part of their induction; Review the policy periodically & update information regarding ICC members etc. on a timely basis.