Clearing 10 organisational myths around POSH

We have summarised certain myths surrounding the POSH Act. It will be advisable to consult a specialist if you may any doubts on this sensitive matter.

  1. My company has had no instances of sexual harassment cases till now so we need not comply.

It is binding on all organisation to comply with the POSH Act weather there has been any incident or not. There should be a provision for all employees to air any issue pertaining to sexual harassment at workplace. With the growing awareness, employees would want the provisions of the Act made available to them. In my recent experience, one of my clients did not have a single sexual harassment compliant from the past decade. After the implementation of the Act a year ago, they have had 3 complaints.

  1. Are we liable if sexual harassment happens between employees outside office and in the non official hours?

In today’s dynamic work environments, there is barely any prescribed time for working. It is about getting the work done wherever you are, could be at office or outside office.  Some of the other instances outside office include business related social events, conferences, travel, campus drives, Team outings, recruitment, etc.Basically workplace is defined as, any place visited by employee arising out of or during the course of employment.

  1. I can search on net for a POSH policy and directly implement it in my organisation.

This is not at all advisable. The scope and applicability will differ from company to company based on the business and culture of the organisation.  It is important to think deeply and create a customised policy for your organisation. Define the scope and applicability clearly so that it’s clearly understood by all employees and the committee who are the custodians of the policy and are responsible for dealing with any issues that may arise.

  1. Only an NGO member should be the external consultant.

The POSH Act describes an external consultant as – “one member from amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment”.  However, the unsaid requirement that we should look for in an external consultant is maturity to understand the human behaviour and psychology, ethical, strong integrity, unbiased, non prejudiced, ability to understand the impact of a no harassment culture in business, gender perceptions and a strong communicator. No law/NGO can teach you this!

  1. Creating awareness on Sexual Harassment at Workplace may create problems for the company as it will lead to higher number of complaints being registered.

The awareness sessions are made compulsory by the Act and are aimed at providing information to all employees of the organisation on addressal & redressal of Sexual harassment at workplace. Punishable by law if not adhered to. More over it’s our duty as management to make sure no one in the organisation is subject to sexual harassment. Even though it is a sensitive matter, complaints handling is well defined by the law and easy to adhere to.  In fact, if there is sexual harassment occurring in the organisation and goes unattended you can imagine what would happen to the culture of the organisation. How is this creating a problem for the organisation?

  1. “Staring”, “Stalking” “Gossiping ” and  “Eve Teasing” are harmless and fun and do not constitute sexual harassment

It’s always fun and harmless when you stare, stalk, gossip (about employees affairs, sexual orientation etc) and tease. But it’s not, in most cases, if you are on the receiving end of it all.  The Act has taken into consideration various circumstances and defined clearly as to what constitute Sexual harassment at workplace.  In the recent survey conducted by us across various organisations, respondents said stalking and staring are the most common forms of sexual harassment at workplace.

  1. When women keep quiet, it means they like it

Women do not want to talk about it merely to avoid the stigma attached to sexual harassment. Based on my experience, most of them are worried about the retaliation from the harasser and his aides and are not sure if complaints are dealt with confidentially. They also do not like to be the subject of gossip at workplace. This definitely does not mean that they like it.

  1. Conducting Quarterly meeting is not necessary. We can just create Minutes of the Meeting and file it only for the sake of compliance.

Quarterly meeting by the committee and the minutes are to be documented and furnished in the annual report to the District Commissioner’s office, and is mandatory.

Apart from the compliance requirement, one of the key benefits of meeting quarterly is that you build the required skills essential in dealing with sexual harassment complaints and cases. The time can also be utilised in proactively developing practices that create a safe work environment. Sexual Harassment can destroy the very fabric of the company. It negatively affects the brand image, creates hostility at workplace bringing down the morale of employees, loss of productive hours of employees, increases attrition and many more.  Why not look at it seriously and make it a strategic initiative for the organisation.

  1. We can hire an external consultant only when there is a case. Else we can manage it ourselves.

Having on board an external consultant to the committee is mandatory by Law. The external consultant should be made a part of every committee meeting as they bring in unbiased opinion/views and challenge the perceptions on matters related to sexual harassment. It is very important to have on board, knowledgeable consultants who can add value to the committee and its members, employees of the organisation and members of law.

  1. Preventing Sexual Harassment at Workplace is HR/Management responsibility.

Even though the administrative responsibility of developing and deploying the policy, appoint and formalise a committee, conduct awareness sessions and committee meetings, etc.. lies with the HR/management, the responsibility to create safe environment at workplace lies with every employee of the organisation.  Hence it is very important to communicate and keep all the employees updated on all aspects of sexual harassment.

 

 

 

 

 

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