Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace - POSH Act

Sexual harassment of women in workplaces is one of the major hurdles in gender equality. In an effort to enable a safe and inclusive workplace for women, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and the rules therein (POSH Laws) were brought into force. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at workplace Act is applicable to every workplace, establishment, company or organization with more than 10 employees.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment of a woman is the most daunting and demoralising experience that an individual can go through at their workplace. It degrades the work environment and is a humongous hurdle for gender equality. It outrightly reduces an employee’s will to work and disrespects the fundamental rights guaranteed to individuals by the Constitution of India.

What is POSH Act?

The victims of sexual harassment face several physiological effects, such as stress, shame, guilt, depression and no employee would be able to work optimally while being in such a situation. In order to overcome the menace and for overall protection from sexual harassment against women, the Government enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This Act is popularly known as the POSH Act. The Act along with the POSH rules are together known as the POSH laws.

How is Sexual Harassment defined under the POSH Act?

According to Section 2(n) of the POSH Act, any of the following (either directly or by implication) shall include sexual harassment:

  1. physical contact and advances;
  2. a demand or request for sexual favours;
  3. making sexually coloured remarks;
  4. showing pornography;
  5. any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Section 3 of the POSH Act further widens the definition of sexual harassment by stating that any of the following also amount to sexual harassment:

  1. implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in the victim’s employment;
  2. implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in the victim’s employment;
  3. implied or explicit threat about the victim’s present or future employment status;
  4. interferes with the victim’s work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her and
  5. humiliating treatment likely to affect the victim’s health or safety.

The POSH Act defines the terms ‘sexual harassment’, ‘workplace’ and ‘aggrieved woman’, understanding of which are important so as to ensure a harassment free environment at a workplace. It also gives mandates such as the constitution of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) that are to be followed by organisations/employers. Rules regarding the Local Complaints Committee, making of a complaint and the inquiry by ICC are also covered extensively. Other duties of the employer such as providing a safe working environment and display of penal consequences of sexual harassment are also stated in the Act.

What is POSH Training?

Organizations need to ensure that its employees, managers, directors, etc. are educated upon what action(s) and/or words fall under sexual harassment, how to get justice if one has been harassed and how not to cross limits so that you yourself are not a harasser, one needs to be aware of what constitutes “sexual harassment” and the laws related to it in detail under POSH training in order to provide a safe and gender-neutral environment at the workplace. In order to be POSH complaint, POSH training and sensitization of the employees is an absolute must.

What is the importance of POSH Training?

POSH training is crucial for an organization for the following important reasons:

  • POSH Training for Employees:
    It helps in making employees familiar with the best practice at work i.e. educates both the genders on sexual harassment, trains them to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate behaviours at workplace and on the redressal system. Training makes employees understand the legal framework in this arena. Educating the women (and men) upon this issue, empowers the employees and promotes a safe, confident and happier workplace.

  • POSH Training for Managers/Employers/Directors:
    Training the higher ups is equally important in order to sensitize them towards gender equality. Since there is a difference in the power that these men/women hold as compared to the employees, it is crucial to educate them for a safe workplace so that they do not abuse their power against female employees. When the people in power are aware of sexual harassment, the laws and redressal system, the employees - especially the women would certainly feel safer at the workplace.

  • Internal Complaints Committee (ICC):
    According to the POSH Laws, every organization consisting of more than 10 employees has to form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). This committee is required to be headed by a “female presiding officer”. The ICC receives and redresses complaints of sexual harassment. POSH training educates the ICC upon the issue of sexual harassment in great detail, thereby training it to efficiently handle complaints and resolve the conflicts related sexual harassment.

What does POSH Training include? through POSH Check gives a complete solution for POSH compliance for any business/organisation. It offers easy-to-use online tools and even personalised expert advice.

The main aim of POSH training is to sensitise the individuals at the workplace of gender equality and to educate them on what constitutes sexual harassment, correct/incorrect behaviour, the laws and the repercussions involved in harassment at workplace.

POSH training can be conducted in two ways - online POSH training and offline POSH training.

There are several benefits of POSH training other than the fact that it is a major step towards a safe working environment. It yields higher job satisfaction and engagement by employees. This also results in higher productivity from the employees. If the employees feel safe and happy in their work environment, there would be higher retention of valuable and talented employees. POSH training also ensures respect among colleagues. All these advantages lead to improvement in the workplace culture on the whole.