9th December is the anniversary of the impactful PoSH Act, aimed at eliminating cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. The act holds organizations and managers responsible for a safe workplace environment, mandating awareness amongst employees regarding safety measures. 7-8% of employees are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, but only 1% report their grievances. For the complete prevention of sexual harassment, the victims and witnesses need to gather the courage to report such cases.
Abiding by the PoSH guidelines under Section 19 puts compliance duties on the employer. The managers are obliged to create a detailed workplace policy against sexual harassment and ensure awareness amongst the employees. It also involves displaying informative posters and submitting annual sexual harassment reports.
Organizations are required to have an Internal Complaints Committee (IC) and submit 2 kinds of annual reports. The 1st Report should include no. of complaints received and disposed of, pending cases, and no. of workshops held. Under the 2nd Report, the employer includes information about the number of complaints received and disposed of.
Here are some common questions regarding annual report filings.
1. What are the statistics from the compiled annual report filings?
From 2013-2017, there is no data maintained regarding sexual harassment cases. However, in 2017, 1971 cases of sexual harassment of women in the workplace were mentioned. 42% of these came from Uttar Pradesh, 13% from Delhi, and 7% from Maharashtra.
Sexual harassment cases have been more prevalent in banking institutes as compared to the IT industry. The former accounted for a majority of the PoSH complaints through FY21-22.
2. How can organizations with multiple branches file their annual report?
Organizations with multiple branches should have their respective IC file and submit their annual report to the employer, who will then submit all reports to the respective district offices.
However, it is possible to have a central IC, with representatives in branches handling the annual report. The annual report can be submitted as a compiled document for the entire organization.
3. How can organizations comply with different state guidelines?
Employers should stay up to date with the trends and guidelines of their respective state or district offices. Annual reports do not require a complicated structure, eliminating the need for an exhaustive methodology in filing the report. The questions included are highly specific and straightforward, saving time and avoiding confusion.
4. Is it okay to submit the report through a registered post? Where are we supposed to submit it?
While it is agreeable to submit the annual report through a registered post, it is advisable to hand deliver the report to the district collector’s office and collect the official stamp on an acknowledgement copy.
Companies are supposed to identify their District collector’s office as per the nearest postal code. For example, Mumbai has 2 district collector’s offices—Bandra and Mantralaya. Companies in south Bombay submit their report to the Mantralaya, while those in the suburbs deliver it to Bandra.
5. Are organizations genuinely PoSH compliant?
Amidst the growing awareness around sexual harassment, a staggering proportion of organizations simply follow PoSH guidelines for the legalities associated with it. Approximately 30% of companies are just compliant for the sake of following formalities, instead of showcasing an active drive against sexual harassment.
There are a significant number of organizations in smaller towns and family run business who do not want to be compliant and fear instilling new ideas into their employees mind by being compliant.Focus on the quality of training sessions and workshops is more important than just hosting the sessions without proper supervision.
6. Does an external consultant to the IC need to be from an NGO, psychologist, or lawyer?
The law does not mandate the external consultant or member of the IC to be from an NGO or be a professional psychologist/lawyer.
Any liberal social rights activist, known to be driven for the cause is suitable to act as an external member of the company IC. It’s more important that the member knows the law, has practical experience in the field and believes in the cause. Not necessary that they need to be a lawyer or a NGO.
7. Is the sexual harassment act a Criminal act?
The act comes under the Civil Act and is handled under the civil court of procedures. However, the power is on the victim to decide whether they wish to seek redressal within the Indian Penal Code or the PoSH act.
8. Is it mandatory to have an external member in your IC?
Yes, the law mandates every IC to have an external member to create a neutral and unbiased point of view in the group. The Court of Law does not entertain pleas from ICs that lack an external opinion in their team.
9. Who signs the annual report of the district offices?
The presiding officer of the IC is responsible to send the report to the manager or the employer. This higher authority then submits the report to the district office.
10. Can IC processes be in virtual mode?
Post the pandemic era, many processes have become virtual. Thus, it is permissible by law to make the IC processes virtual. However, ensure that your organization hosts the proceedings effectively and does not turn them into a formality.Offline meetings and IC gatherings are always more impactful, given the added personal touch, and the ability to read body language. Being a sensitive topic, the physical environment matters greatly in this scenario.
11. Is it necessary for the complainant to provide evidence?
The IC does have the capability to gather evidence post a complaint. They can access technical records, track social media history, or conduct experimental sessions to gather relevant information. The complainants are not mandated to bring in evidence with themselves, although it is highly advisable to do so. Workshops and training sessions should therefore encourage employees to actively collect evidence in any form when facing sexual harassment.
12. How many male members are needed?
The law mandates the IC to be at least 50% women-led. The rest of the positions can be held by men. It is advisable to have minimally 1 male member on the committee to bring an equal outlook and perspective. Male respondents or even complainants might feel dominated by an all-female committee and fail in sharing information comfortably. The presence of the male party also reduces the possibility of false reports as the innocent respondents get some support.
13. What if the management does not implement the recommendation?
The implementation is required to happen within 60 days of filing the report. If the complainant notices a lack of action from the management, they can file a lawsuit against them. The management will therefore have to face the legal implications of its non-implementation. Preventing sexual harassment is a necessity in every workplace. Every employee deserves a safe official environment, and following the PoSH guidelines helps organizations build the same.
Consequently, it’s vital to file the annual PoSH report, describing your workplace scenario for an improved tomorrow.
To grasp a clear understanding of how to file the PoSH annual report, follow this template. It also includes the PoSH Law and addresses the various district offices in India.
For compliance to POSH or any queries on Annual report filing, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more blogs and articles, visit our official website. Contact us for workshops and queries related to POSH, EAP (Employee Assistance Program,) and Diversity and Inclusion.