Employers have a social responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. This is not only a legal obligation, but it also makes good business sense. Here are important measures to consider in order to ensure a harassment-free workplace.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is a violation of the fundamental right to livelihood. It is a serious offence, violating an individual’s privacy and right to a harassment-free workplace. The culture of secrecy around sexual harassment seems to be a thing of the past as reporting of incidents have been on the rise.
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Sexual harassment can be overt and direct. But it can also be a subtle act, indirect, or implied and can still amount to harassment. Staff should be sensitised about acceptable behaviour at the workplace. When different people come together without being sensitised to each other’s culture and backgrounds, sexual harassment can occur. Organisations have identified this as a concern but most believe that a basic response is adequate. While that is a good first step, these other areas need attention too, in order for you to have a harassment-free workplace:
- Culture: Workplace culture exists on a sliding scale, aligned with other industry practices – is it very hierarchical? Does the culture promote secrecy? What are the conditions in your organisation which allowed sexual harassment to take place? Was there anything to prevent reporting of the same? To create a harassment-free workplace, you need to create practices or encourage actions that foster a culture of openness, trust, and accountability. Employees who undergo harassment should be able to report it without hesitation. And those who are being complained against should be held accountable, through corrective actions at an individual and organisational level.
“To create a harassment-free workplace, you need to create practices or encourage actions that foster a culture of openness, trust, and accountability. Employees who undergo harassment should be able to report it without hesitation.”
- Programs: Having well-planned and frequent initiatives as well as training programs is important. Such initiatives encourage employees to communicate their experiences and concerns. The kind of channels that are available for them to speak up and the role of managers and the Internal Committee in handling such complaints is critical to preventing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Sensitisation programs across the company are a must so that everyone realises the value that the organisation attaches to being a safe and equitable employer.
- Processes: Your Internal Committee may be in place, but if the relevant processes to file a complaint are too cumbersome or not clear, the situation will only get worse. Information about the process to follow when submitting a sexual harassment complaint, as well as details of what are the post-complaint steps should be shared in awareness sessions. Employees should be aware of how their complaints will be taken forward and what they can expect during an inquiry and as an outcome.
- People: Training the first responders such as managers and HR folks is crucial. In alignment with that, having an aware and sensitive Internal Committee makes the complaint handling and resolution process just and effective. Collaboration between individuals and departments is necessary here, without compromising confidentiality and sensitivity.
“Training the first responders such as managers and HR folks is crucial. In alignment with that, having an aware and sensitive Internal Committee makes the complaint handling and resolution process just and effective.”
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Below given ways can make your workplace harassment-free. Do a quick check:
- Do you have an Internal Complaints Committee in your workplace?
- Do you have a PoSH Policy?
- Are employees given sensitisation training every year?
If yes, that’s great! Your organisation is PoSH compliant under the SHWP Act, 2013.
Year of Incorporation: 2013
Number of Employees: 18
Founders: Smita Shetty Kapoor, CEO and Co-founder, Baskaran MR – Co-founder and CXO
Business Line: Creating safe, happy, and inclusive workplaces
Hiring Pipeline: 10 more new hires across functions in entry to mid-management level
Workforce Pie: 50 percent in delivery and e-learning, followed by 33 percent in sales, and the rest in marketing and finance
Key HR factors: Diversity and flexibility to accommodate diverse groups
Key investors: Elango R, Mohan Rangan, Vilas Kanyal, Navneet Chugh, and Deepali Paul