Women have been an intrinsic part of the workforce in India, as in the world, for the past few decades. While the laws pertaining to labor have kept on evolving, the same has not caught pace regarding the issue of Sexual harassment at the workplace. Right from the Maternity Benefit Act, Equal Remuneration Act to the provisions in the Employee State Insurance and the Provident Fund Act, several legislations have served the purpose of welfare aimed at women employees to a large extent.
Women dealing with a company or organization- contractual, temporary, gig workers, interns, apprentices, customers, vendors / suppliers/ consultants, etc. enjoy protection under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 Let’s now call it as just Act ) which was enacted for the purpose of securing women at the workplace against any act of sexual harassment happening at the company’s workplace from any member of the company/organization. Thankfully, the Act takes into its ambit penal measures for workplace sexual harassment as also mandates building up of awareness among all stakeholders about the same which serves as a preventive measure to avoid any problem from occurring.
The Vodafone Essar case is a classic example of how companies have to face the consequences of not taking cognizance of the complaints about sexual harassment at workplace. Back then, the Act was not in place and companies had to abide by the Visaka Guidelines which also mandated formation of an Internal Committee. The petitioner in this case, a woman employee, who was terminated from service by Vodafone Essar, alleged that she was terminated at the behest of the COO for declining his demand for sexual favours. The Bombay High Court bench in its judgment, fined the company an amount of Rs. 50000 for not having an IC in place as mandated by the Visaka guidelines which were in effect at that time.
In keeping the sensitive nature of the issue, the Act mandates that all information contained in the Complaints received by the Internal Committee (IC) shall be kept confidential, including and not limited to the date and place of the incidence, names of the complainants, address, contact details, nature of complaints, witnesses thereof, action taken by the IC against the Respondent, etc. in any manner.
Why do companies have to comply with the Act
Several companies have taken cognizance of this Act and its penal measures and have proactively begun initiatives aimed at preventing any such instance from occurring at their workplace. This includes
· Training programs
· Posters and signage
· Guest lectures by women lawyers and Welfare officers
· Setting up internal sexual harassment elimination committees / Internal Committees
· Incorporating Anti Sexual harassment clauses in the contracts and HR Policy.
Companies also have to comply with this Act if they intend to apply for certain accreditations which make it mandatory to have the IC in place.
Has the Act been effective?
With the introduction of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013, not much has changed in terms of universal application of the measures contained within. There is much to expect in terms of setting up of the IC or awareness programs which serve as preventive mechanisms for any incidence from occurring. As is with regards to the Income Tax or GST, where a company has to file returns annually giving all details of the transactions, or even the FCRA returns that are filed about receiving foreign donations by NGOs, a similar mechanism has been set in place for gathering data about the compliance with POSH, details about complaints received and about its resolution. Its compulsion has woken up companies to the repercussions of non-compliance including penalty and cancellation of business license. Even today, several companies show little interest in creating safe workplaces for women employees and consider workplace harassment as part of the male dominated game. This endangers the women employees further and emboldens offenders to a dangerously large extent. It is only with the recent movements and cases filed by several women against offenders and companies scurrying up with legal matters and compensation, that the companies are now waking up to POSH and its significance. A single case filed by a complainant could cause severe dent in the reputation of a company.
What is the POSH Annual Report?
Every company is required to submit the POSH Annual Report through its Internal Complaints Committee. Sec 21 of the Act says that “(I) The Internal Committee or the Local Committee shall in each calendar year prepare, in such form and when may be prescribed, an annual report and submit the same to the employer and the District Officer.”
Section 22 of the Act says “The employer shall include in its report the number of cases filed, if any, and their disposal under this Act in the annual report of his organization or where no such report is required to be prepared, intimate such number of cases, if any, to the District Officer.”
The IC needs to file details to the District Officer who in turn files the brief report of all the Annual Reports received from the district to the appropriate State Government, giving details like-
Number of sexual harassment complaints received in the year.
Number of complaints disposed off during the year.
Number of cases pending for more than 90 days
Number of workshops or awareness program against sexual harassment carried out
Nature of action taken by the employer or District officer
Apart from this, the Company’s Annual Report filed with the Registrar of Companies, shall also include the Director’s Report giving details of compliance with the requirements under the Act.
Non compliance with the requirements of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal)Act 2013 attracts a fine of up to Rs. 50,000 for first offence and upto Rs 1,00,000 for consecutive offence or the license of business stands cancelled upon repeated willful non compliance.
The POSH Annual report is for the calendar year and needs to be filed within 30 days from the end of a calendar year. The Annual Report has to be filed even if there has been no case of Sexual harassment in the company.
You can see the details about POSH at
You can contact us for
i. POSH at the workplace training programs for business leaders
ii. POSH awareness drives and sensitization programs for employees
iii. Setting up the IC and redressal mechanism
iv. Filing the POSH returns