A third of India corporations and a fourth of global companies surveyed in the country were not compliant with Sexual Harassment Act 2013 and the number of sexual harassment complaints at workplace more than doubled to 526 in 2014, according to the National Commission for Women.
Overall 31 per cent of the respondents were not compliant with the Act after its enactment, which mandates Internal Complaints Committee being constituted to address complaints, according to a report titled ‘Fostering Safe Workplaces’ complied by FICCI – EY. A total of 249 complaints were registered in 2013. The report, commissioned to identify the changing dynamics of the workforce with regard to prevention of sexual harassment of women, revealed that uncertainty, caution and introspection were highly prevalent among companies.
About 40 per cent of the total respondents were yet to train their committee members. Indian companies fared low with 47 per cent, while multinational companies stood at 34 per cent.
According to the report, about 35 per cent companies surveyed were unaware of the penal consequences for non-compliance when constituting their committes. Surprisingly, the issue was more pronounced among global companies with almost 38 per cent stating their ignorance. Forty-four per cent of the respondents’ organizations did not display the penal consequences of sexual harassment in their premises.
The small and medium sector fared low with 71 per cent did not display such warnings clearly at their place, according to the report.
“It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe work space for women. This is not only a legal obligation, but is also required for the growth of the organization. The issue, if not taken seriously, will send a wrong message to the employees. A sense of insecurity will prevail among the employees resulting in lower job-satisfaction and turnover, hence, causing loss of valuable employees, and thus incurring economical costs,” said A Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI.
The provisions of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 laid under the Act aims to protect the interest of all women employees and fuel the adoption of good governance practices and mandate employers’ to provide a safe working environment to women employees.
The Act also mandates to constitute the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to display the penal consequences of sexual harassment, organise orientation programs for the members of the ICC and arranging awareness programs for employees.
Despite increased public awareness, sexual harassment continues to plague Indian workplaces. If left unchecked, this could be devastating not only to the lives and careers of individual employees but also invariably weaken productivity and the morale of employees, according to the report.