Understanding workplace underPoSH Act

The Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 (POSH Act) is an Indian legislation aimed at preventing and addressing instances of sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Here’s an overview of the key provisions and aspects of the act:

  1. Scope and Coverage:

    • The POSH Act applies to all workplaces in India, including both the public and private sectors.
    • It covers all women employees, regardless of their employment status (permanent, temporary, contract, etc.), as well as interns, volunteers, and even customers or clients who may face harassment at the workplace.
  2. Definition of Sexual Harassment:

    • The act defines sexual harassment broadly to include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
    • It also covers any conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment or interferes with a woman’s work performance.
  3. Duties of Employers:

    • Employers are required to create a safe working environment that is free from sexual harassment.
    • They must establish an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or workplace with 10 or more employees to handle complaints of sexual harassment.
    • Employers are responsible for organizing workshops and awareness programs to educate employees about their rights and responsibilities under the POSH Act.
  4. Internal Complaints Committee (ICC):

    • The ICC is responsible for receiving and addressing complaints of sexual harassment.
    • It must be headed by a woman and consist of at least half of its members as women.
    • The committee must conduct inquiries into complaints in a timely and impartial manner, maintaining confidentiality throughout the process.
  5. Complaints Procedure:

    • The POSH Act mandates that employers establish a formal complaints procedure for reporting incidents of sexual harassment.
    • Employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment or who have witnessed such behavior are encouraged to report it to the ICC.
    • Complaints must be filed within three months of the alleged incident, although the ICC has the discretion to extend this period under certain circumstances.
  6. Protection against Retaliation:

    • The act prohibits retaliation or victimization against employees who file complaints of sexual harassment or participate in investigations.
    • Employers found guilty of retaliating against complainants can face penalties under the act.
  7. Penalties and Consequences:

    • Non-compliance with the provisions of the POSH Act can result in penalties, including fines and even cancellation of business licenses.
    • Employers may also face reputational damage and legal action if they fail to address complaints of sexual harassment effectively.

Overall, the POSH Act aims to promote gender equality and create safer workplaces by addressing and preventing sexual harassment. It places significant responsibility on employers to take proactive measures to prevent harassment, establish effective complaints mechanisms, and ensure a supportive environment for victims of harassment.