PoSH Law: Things Corporate Should Keep In Mind For A Compliant Workplace

CIOL Bureau
New Update
PoSH Law: Things Corporate Should Keep In Mind For A Compliant Workplace

Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) at the workplace is not just an endeavour of every organization, but a mandated responsibility. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 mandates that every organization with more than 10 employees must take certain actions to remain compliant. It is not that women in the organization’s with less than 10 employees don’t get the protection. Even our housemaid gets protection under the law at her workplace (read: our homes), with the Local Complaints committee constituted by the district officer in the respective district.


Corporates with more than 10 employees are required to take additional measures to stay compliant. Non-compliance can be very costly with penalties and up to even cancellation of business license as prescribed by the law. This is applicable even for MNCs. Even if the MNC’s local entities are covered by their Global HQ driven anti-discrimination or harassment prevention policies, minor adaptations are required for their compliance with the Indian law. Chapter VI of the law prescribed the list of duties of the employer.

I’ve summarized it in five steps to make it easy.

1: Formulate a Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy


This first step to compliance is a critical one. While a simple policy template can be downloaded on the internet, Organizations must take care to depict the exact organizational culture. For example, some organizations may choose a zero-tolerance policy resulting in termination while others might have a differentiated approach, based on the severity of the complaint, maturity level of the employee (just out of college or a senior leader) or repeated offence.

You may also note that the Indian POSH law is only for the protection of women, while global polices might be Gender Neutral. If your organization follows a gender-neutral policy, you may have to note that Complaints from women employees must be handled as per the Indian POSH law while others may be handled according to the Code of Conduct policies. You can consult with a POSH Law Expert to draft or redraft your SH policy.

2: Constitute an Internal Committee to handle complaints


The uniqueness of the Indian POSH Law is the “Internal Committee” or IC which must be constituted by every organization to implement the POSH policy. This committee has the powers equal to that of a Civil Court. It can Inquire complaints, summon witnesses, collect evidence and recommend interim measures or actions. While constituting an IC, an organization must follow certain guidelines.

· Presiding Officer: Must be a women employee in a senior position

· Members: At least 2 members from the organization


· External Member: A neutral external person working for the cause of women rights with an NGO or similar

· At least 50% of the IC must be women.

As the structure would indicate, the law is clearly to be considered as a “Positive Action” in favour of Women, who may be discriminated at the workplace due to sexual harassment. A wrong structure of the IC may nullify the Inquiries conducted during an appeal, so consult with an expert to get it right.


3: Build Awareness about the Policy and Committee

The duties of the employer also include building awareness. This can be divided into three parts.

· Internal Committee capability:

Having the powers equivalent to that of a Civil court is not a matter of pride, but that of responsibility. Capability building is critical to shoulder this responsibility. This may be done using periodic training, workshops, webinars, eLearning and mock inquiries. The procedures involved and the sensitive nature of the complaints require skills which must be developed in the IC members through a structured program.

· Employee Awareness Trainings:

Building awareness is certainly part of the preventive measures that an organization must take. It can be done using training events, eLearning or workshops. For enabling a large and distributed workforce, POSH eLearning courses provide a flexible and cost-effective option. Due to the reporting requirements, all the training must be tracked and reported in the Annual Report.

· Posters, Standees, Banners & Mailers:

Organizations are required to display the SH Policy, IC Contact points, and penal consequences for the offenders at conspicuous locations in the Workplace. Mailers can also be used to cover the remote working population.

4: Handle complaints effectively and take corrective actions

The POSH law has detailed the procedures to be followed with respect to handling complaints by IC. This includes pointers on principles of natural justice, timelines for procedures till completion of the inquiry, confidentiality, Inquiry procedures, Interim measures, findings report and action taken report. This process can be navigated using expert support on IC capability building activities.

5: File an annual report to the District Office

The IC, as a part of its responsibilities, must submit an annual report to the management about the activities performed during the calendar year, including training and workshops conducted, complaints received, No. of Inquiries exceeding the prescribed timeline and the actions taken. The management/board must forward this report to the district officer. Some states like Telangana have provided online portals to submit these compliance/annual reports.

While compliance with the POSH Law can be achieved through these five steps and associated actions, elimination of Sexual Harassment at workplace needs much more than that. But these would be a good place to start.

About the Author

Santhosh KT, Founder & Managing Director, Succeed Technologies Santhosh KT

Santhosh KT, Founder & Managing Director, Succeed Technologies | eLearnPOSH - a dynamic Edtech startup that simplifies compliance learning.