Apart from the many other laws applicable to a Company, compliance of a very important law is being missed by many especially the new-age founder of start-up companies. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, is one such act. The Act states that every company must have a policy on dealing with the sexual harassment of women at a workplace and the policy should be drafted as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
A report by the International Labour Organization states that only a handful of companies in India are in compliant with the law. Any Act when being brought into place is mandatorily required to be followed by every citizen of the country. There were various seminars organized by the government to educate people and business houses to implement the policy and there are instances where repeated notices have been served by the government to various entities to comply with the Act and also penalized a plenty of them for non-compliance.
Major clauses of Sexual Harassment Policy
The Act was implemented to ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment. However, there was a vaccum in the law when it came to regulating sexual harassment at workplaces. Thus, to bridge the gap between the formation of Act and the execution of Act, the implementation of Sexual Harassment Policy was made mandatory for all the employers. An employer while incorporating the Sexual Harassment Policy in place must ensure that there are major clauses which should be mentioned in the Policy. The Company should make sure that the policy is drafted by the legal professionals and be implemented as per the laws of the land.
A brief highlight of the major clauses to be incorporated in a Sexual Harassment Policy is pointed below:
- Definition of aggrieved woman
- Definition of workplace
- Tenure of completing an inquiry
- Reporting the inquiry
- Formation of committee
- Power of the committee
- Non-compliance on the part of the committee
Beyond the above key points, there are various other clauses which needs to be mentioned in the policy which will help in setting the tone of the Sexual Harassment Policy in sync with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.
Why is it necessary for employers to have the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy?
The Constitution of India grants every citizen of India the right to equality and also right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment, free from sexual harassment. The government of India went a step ahead to protect the rights of the women in India and enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Also, a section was added to the Indian Penal Code that stipulates what constitutes a sexual harassment offence and what the penalties shall be for a man committing such an offence. Penalties in such case can range from one to three years of imprisonment and / or a fine. Along with the above, the government of India has made it mandatory for the employers to report any offence of sexual nature in the prescribed manner.
Effect of non-compliance by the employers
In any case, if a Company or an employer fails to put the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy in place as per the prescribed norms, the employer shall be punishable with a fine not less than Rs.50,000/- which may also lead to cancellation of registration to conduct business by the Company.
Thus, to prevent your company/entity from shutting down, it is advisable to draft a proper Sexual Harassment Policy and implement it as per the law since the government of India has already started trimming the wings of those companies which are in non-compliant with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.