Sexual harassment at workplace has been a growing concern amongst Organizations, regardless of their size. It continues to remain a key hinderance for Organizations in ensuring that all stakeholders are provided access to workspaces which are truly free of all kind harassment, where productivity and creativity can be encouraged, without any restraint. This is despite the enactment of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Rules (“Law”) in India which bestowed upon the organizations several responsibilities to tackle with the issue of sexual harassment at workplace.
A survey conducted by the Indian National Bar Association in 2017 of over 6000 employees found that most women chose not to report sexual harassment to management because of stigma, fear of retribution, embarrassment, lack of awareness of reporting policies, or lack of confidence in the complaints mechanism. A major cause for this, it was found, was the lack of awareness of the Law, mechanisms that are provided under law and the rights available to the victims. It is clear that, despite the enactment of a law to deal with the issue, sexual harassment will continue to remain a growing concern at the workplace if awareness is not brought about.
Training and awareness programs assist in creating safer workspaces, smoother implementation of Law, building a culture of mutual respect, an approachable yet sensitive mechanism to file complaints, enabling complainants to ask for help with filing a complaint, ensuring the IC takes timely action and sees the inquiry process through and enabling the IC to decipher when complaints may be malicious. These training and awareness programs decide the course that any instance of sexual harassment will take and how organizations can deal with it.
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While most of these activities were being conducted via face to face sessions / programs till last year, 2020 saw a major jump towards virtual platforms and mediums for various tasks. The world was faced with an unprecedented pandemic that thrusted most organizations to move to virtual platforms faster than ever.
In fact, E-Learning industry in India is growing at 25% year-on-year. India is the second largest market for E-learning after the US. The sector is expected to reach US$ 1.96 billion by 2021 with around 9.5 million users. Given the pandemic, workplaces may have turned digital, however sexual harassment continues to be on the rise. This situation has not relieved the employer of their duties. Online and offline forms of sexual harassment existed in the pre-pandemic time as well. Through virtual POSH trainings, employers can make sure they are still compliant with Law.
We have often been asked: Are virtual POSH trainings effective? Well, they definitely have a few advantages of their own. Such as:
- The virtual characteristic of trainings makes it easy to depict actual workplace incidents and helps with visual learning or story / scenario based understanding of the subject.
- These are also cost effective
- Ensures availability / presence of employers and employees due to easy access and ensures one-to-one learning as and when one is available anytime, anywhere instead of facing the challenge of collecting everyone in the same room for a face to face session
- Its easier to maintain records and data, to evaluate, view results and certify
Considering the many advantages and ease of access that virtual POSH trainings bring, employers need not hesitate to fulfil their compliance requirements in today’s times. POSH training is a long-term investment which will impact how workplaces, whether offline or online continue the task to keep employees and workspaces safe, thus boosting productivity.
It further places impetus on the fact that prevention is in-fact the cure. It must also be noted that training and awareness are few of the several responsibilities that an Organization is mandated to perform. Specifically, as per Section 19 (b) and Rule 13 of the law, it is the duty and responsibility of the employer to conduct awareness sessions and training programs for employees as well as IC members respectively in order to create a conducive and safe environment at the workplace and to ensure that complaints are inquired into by IC as per process and expectations of the law. Section 26 of the Law provides that the Organizations can attract heavy penalties including a fine of Rs. 50,000 for first-time offence and cancellation of business license for repeated offences.