#8 Things Corporate Should Keep In Mind For a Compliant Workplace
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Corporate India has been worried for a while now – how to build a safe and egalitarian workplace, that also ensures that they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 2013 (POSH Law). Here are 8 steps that can go a long way in building a safe and compliant organization.
Building the Right Culture
This is the fundamental building block that can help companies comply with the POSH Law. CEOs often overlook or underestimate the role that culture plays when it comes to compliance. What’s the connection? Well, an organization that has the right culture, where professionals are treated in a fair manner irrespective of gender (or other considerations for that matter) is one where instances of sexual harassment at the workplace are likely to be comparatively lesser or none. The leadership must make it very clear that sexist jokes, misogynistic comments and other forms of gender-based discrimination will not be tolerated. An organization that supports such behaviour, will be setting the stage for abusive behaviour by its senior management that will percolate down to all employees.
Sensitizing the Workforce
Every CHRO / HR Head must be given the mandate to create and continuously invest in sensitizing the workforce. A provision must be made in the budget for this. There has to be a well thought out, long term strategy that involves continuous sensitization, on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour at the workplace. Some examples could include posters at prominent places, viewing well-made learning videos & workshops that must be made part of every employee’s KRAs, conducting periodic surveys of employees to obtain their views on the workplace culture and ensure that year on year the organization’s score continuously improves.
Complying With the Letter and spirit of the Law
CEOs need to send out a clear message – the organization will comply with the letter and spirit of the law. This means that corporates aren’t going to just focus on ticking the compliance box – they are also going to ensure that the organization is appropriately sensitized with clear communication on the redressal mechanism.
Setting up of an IC
An important ingredient in complying with the POSH Law is setting up an effective IC. Members of the IC should preferably be experienced and importantly be perceived as “fair”. The external member should be one with significant expertise in this area or at least have a legal background or be familiar with the law, given that the role is a quasi-judicial one.
Empowering & Training the IC
This is probably one of the most important functions of an organization – to train it’s IC such that it can effectively carry out its duties. A well trained IC can go a long way in building a compliant workplace. Training must include making IC’s aware of their powers, rights & duties, jurisdiction, conducting conciliation & investigation, evidence appreciation, punishment, order writing etc. Employees will gain confidence that matters that go before the IC, will be heard, handled with fairness and justice will be done.
The 2 C’s – Credibility and Confidentiality
Building credibility in the functioning of the IC is very important. Employees must know that matters of sexual harassment will be heard by a competent and well-trained body and importantly confidentiality will be maintained. Interestingly, both the complainant and the respondent, are equally interested in maintaining confidentiality. It is important to choose IC members with care – above all, they have to be perceived as being fair and just.
Complying With the Orders of the IC
Quite a few employers make the mistake of selectively implementing the orders of an IC. The law is very clear – while it’s referred to as “recommendations”, they are orders of an IC which are binding on the employer and must be acted on, within 60 days. The law does not provide any scope to the employer to modify or selectively implement the IC’s recommendations. They are to be implemented in toto, and within the time period prescribed. Failure to do so would put the organization in breach of the POSH law. Employers need to understand that the IC is the only body that is trained to adjudicate on such matters, after hearing both parties, assessing all evidence before it, including examination and cross-examination of the complainant, respondent and witnesses and finally passing a reasoned order. The employer, cannot in a vacuum determine whether that order is appropriate or not. Complying with the orders of the IC also sends out the right message to the entire organization.
Thus, employers must constitute and empower their IC and follow through and act on its recommendations.
Be an Equal Opportunity Employer
Last but not least, it’s important to be an equal opportunity employer. What does it mean? The answer lies in little details. For eg: Instructing the recruiting team not to ask questions that pertain to marriage plans, children etc as they have absolutely no relevance to the value that a professional brings to the table. An equal opportunity employer will be gender sensitive, yet will not make people choices pertaining to hiring, growth, promotions, policy based on gender, rather focus purely on merit.