What makes for an effective Internal Complaints Committee? This question was central to “Equipping our ICCs: Advantages, Challenges and Successes’, a panel discussion organised by Parity Consulting in Bengaluru recently. The panellists, who were drawn from the corporate sector, agreed that “selection” and “training” were two processes that would determine the quality of an ICC, which is a mandatory provision at any workplace for receiving complaints of sexual harassment of women.
Each of the panellists explained how their companies went about these processes.
The panel comprised Sukanya Gopinath, head, Ethics Management, Titan Company; K. Sribhoomi Yesaswini, partner, Kasturi & Associates; Sajan Mathai, senior director, Oracle India; and Padmaja A.R., vice-president, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI).
At Oracle, nominations for the role come from the human resources department, and the list is then pared down using a variety of parameters. The ICC has a 70:30 percentage of women and men, with representation from each of the 30 offices of the company across India.
Sajan pointed out that the process of selection was carried out with great care over a period of three months.
At RBEI, those in the short-list are evaluated for credibility and approachability. Seniority is another factor. The HR Department would recommend names of people, and the committee must have a representative from every region the company operated in.
At Titan, a background check including feedback from the peer group would be done before selecting someone to be a part of the ICC.
There are two components to the training provided to members of an ICC. One of the two is obvious: It is training that will help them deal with a complaint effectively, which covers a host of issues, including ensuring confidentiality, showing sensitivity and fighting unconscious bias, and also providing counselling to those left with scars. And two, training that will be of help to ICC members themselves: In other words, providing them with the strength to deal with highly traumatising cases. For, an ICC member can sometimes find the experience of listening to what a complainant has to share, traumatic.
Sribhoomi Yesaswini, an advocate who is part of the committee of various organisations, said each case was mentally draining. “I don’t take many cases at a time,” she said.
Two years ago, Titan launched counselling for its ICC members. The company also provides support to the family of the one against whom a complaint has been brought.
At RBEI, the Committee goes the extra mile to protect confidentiality. “We choose another location for the enquiry,” said Padmaja
“The key role of an ICC is to determine whether a complaint that has been raised is sexual harassment or not,” said Kalpana Tatavarti, founder, Parity Consulting who moderated the session.
Kalpana says that to be able to do so, an ICC has to have a lot of maturity and understanding of the subject. It should have answers to questions such as when and why does a behaviour become unwelcome, why is it difficult for the victim to say a clear no and why is it difficult for a complainant to raise a complaint as soon as she faces sexual harassment.
Through videos shot by employees, Titan has been creating awareness among them about prevention of sexual harassment (POSH) at the workplace.
To get better at dealing with these cases, ICC members have to meet regularly and exchange notes.
“At Oracle, we meet every quarter and we write the minutes even if there are no cases,” said Mathai.
At RBEI, the committee would meet every two months, said Padmaja.
* In-person training at the time of induction
* Regular mailers to employees on prevention of sexual harassment
* Posters displayed in all common areas of the office
* E-learning modules
* Sensitising housekeeping and support staff through sessions conducted in local language