In today’s world, employee safety must be top priority. Ensuring that employees feel protected and secure while at work is not only the right thing to do but also is a legal and ethical obligation of employers.
In India, we have a special legislation called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (POSH Act, 2013) which was formulated with the objective of creating safe workplaces for women in our country. Simultaneously, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (POSH Rules) were also formulated.
Rule 13 (a) of the POSH Rules states that-
“Subject to the provisions of section 19, every employer shall–
(a) formulate and widely disseminate an internal policy or charter or resolution or declaration for prohibition, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace intended to promote gender sensitive safe spaces and remove underlying factors that contribute towards a hostile work environment against women;..”
As per the aforementioned rule, employers are mandated to formulate a POSH policy with the objective being creation of gender sensitive safe workplaces.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of POSH policy at the workplace and the essential elements of a POSH policy.
What is a POSH Policy?
A POSH policy is a set of guidelines put in place to prevent and handle instances of sexual harassment at the workplace. The goal of a POSH policy is to create a safe and comfortable work environment for all employees, free from any form of sexual harassment.
The policy outlines what constitutes sexual harassment, what actions to take in the event of a complaint, and the consequences for engaging in such behaviour.
What is the importance of POSH Policy at Workplace?
It is essential to have a POSH policy at the workplace for various reasons some of which are mentioned below-
- Legal requirement: As stated earlier, POSH rules mandate that every organization, having 10 or more employees, is mandated to have formulate a POSH policy. Non-compliance with this rule can result in fines.
- Safe and comfortable work environment: A comprehensive POSH policy can create a safe and comfortable work environment for employees, free from any form of sexual harassment. It can help prevent instances of sexual harassment and provide a mechanism for employees to report any incidents of harassment without fear of retaliation. The employees may also get the feeling of being cared and looked after by the employer.
- Maintaining reputation: Employers who prioritize the safety and well-being of their employees are more likely to attract and retain top talent, improve employee morale and satisfaction, and boost productivity and profitability. A POSH policy can enhance the overall reputation of a business.
- Promoting gender diversity: A POSH policy can promote gender diversity in the workplace by creating an environment where all employees feel safe, respected, and valued. This can lead to an increase in the number of women in leadership positions and improve overall diversity at the workplace. Having a gender-neutral POSH policy can further increase the chances of having a diversified workforce and ensure that there is a feeling of inclusion at work.
- Creating a positive workplace culture: A comprehensive POSH policy can create a positive workplace culture that promotes mutual respect, dignity, and equality. This can lead to increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement.
What are the essential elements in a POSH policy?
Every organization having a POSH policy needs to ensure that it is in line with the POSH Act. However, they can also further expand the policy and include provisions which will create a safe and enabling environment for all the employees.
Some of the important aspects that should be a part of the POSH policy are-
- Definition of sexual harassment: The policy should clearly define what constitutes sexual harassment and provide examples of behaviour that could be considered as such.
- Statement of commitment: The policy should include a statement of commitment from the employer, outlining their commitment to preventing sexual harassment at the workplace and ensuring a safe and comfortable work environment for all employees.
- Reporting mechanism: The policy should include a reporting mechanism for employees to report incidents of sexual harassment. The mechanism should be easily accessible, confidential, and free from any fear of retaliation.
- Redressal mechanism: The policy should include a detailed redressal mechanism for addressing complaints of sexual harassment. The mechanism should include an investigation process, a timeline for resolution, and a clear communication process.
- Consequences for engaging in sexual harassment: The policy should outline the consequences for engaging in sexual harassment at the workplace. The consequences should be such that deter employees from engaging in inappropriate behaviour.
- Training: The policy should include a training program for employees on what constitutes sexual harassment, the reporting mechanism, and the redressal mechanism. Training should be mandatory for all employees and should be conducted at regular intervals.
While this is an outline of what a POSH policy can look like, it should be monitored and reviewed regularly to ensure its effectiveness. The review process can include feedback from employees, internal audits, and external expert advice.
POSHequili, a vertical of Equilibrio Advisory LLP, empanelled with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India provides POSH-related compliance services including drafting of POSH policies. Read more about this here.
Disclaimer: Views are personal