Discussion on Sexual Harassment at Workplace: Challenges during Lockdown
Working from home is a new normal for everyone amidst the current lockdown; however we also need to shed light on virtual workplace conduct and safety. Therefore, on International Labour’s Day, Centre for Social Research (CSR) conducted a Webinar on “Sexual Harassment at Workplace: Challenges in Lockdown”. In this edition of webinar we had expert Mr. Adab Singh Kapoor (Advocate) talk about The Prohibition of Sexual Harassment Act 2013 (or POSH); which talks about safeguarding workplace for women and cater the healthy environment that respects the rights of a working woman to equality of status and opportunity. Our second panellist Ms. Karen Craggs (Global Gender Equality Expert ) emphasised on the potential of blurring lines between workplace and home and how the employer must remain vigilant throughout. Along with that our third panellist Dr. Manasi Mishra (Member Internal Committees) shared that the POSH Act includes both Organised and the Unorganised sector and in fact covers any place that comes under the ambit of work related relationship.
Experts talked about the complex scenarios we are living in and given the broad definition of the ACT all of us must think about the virtual world of video calls & telecommunication and the way ACT deems applicable. Employees might be at home but they continue to operate in virtual workplace while interacting with their colleagues and must continue to do so with no uncertain terms. While the employees are sitting in the comfort of their home they must not switch off and forget the workplace etiquettes.
Some of the key messages of the webinar were:
- Redressal mechanism: Any organisation that has 10 or more than 10 members must constitute an internal committee to receive and redress cases of sexual harassment at workplace and these IC’s must address the cases reported under the new norm of “Work from Home”.
- Sensitisation is important; organisations must conduct the gender sensitisation training of their employees to the expected standards of professional behaviour.
- Reporting the case is critical as we undergo the dramatic shift in workplace dynamics, organisation should actively work on including new framework to look at the ambit of new virtual workplace.
Advocate Adab Singh Kapoor
“Under the current situation where most of us are working from home, organizations should formulate certain code of conduct for all their employees; mentioning some basic etiquettes including what kind of communication is permissible and not”
“A virtual workplace should be included under the POSH act and any harassment perpetuated within the realms of the virtual workplace shall also be actionable in the act”
“Where the number of employees is less than 10, there is something called the Local Complaints Committee before which you can address your grievance. Additionally, the Indian government has started the She-Box initiative, which ensures a system of checks and balances”
Ms. Karen Craggs
“The current situation is more challenging for smaller organizations who may not have these policies in place because for most of the big organization have a robust HR team that is looking at employee engagement in a virtual setting, to ensure what works, how can we leverage that and how do we need to support the employees.”
“I as a witness to a sexual harassment also have the obligation and right to bring this forward. We need to change the social shame around the person who calls it out”
“Managers can help set a professional tone to this situation by firstly creating a few ground rules like giving a choice to show your video because it is not about showing up on a video, rather it is about getting the work done!”
Dr. Manasi Mishra
“In 99% of the cases one can see that the perpetrator is at a higher rank than the survivor, as a result, especially a habitual offered will take the pretext of calling at unusual hours for work.”
“Many a times the informal sectors try to push Sexual Harassment cases under the carpet and not address it at all. However, they need to realize that the consequences of Sexual harassment of an employee could impact the organization due to lower productivity and diminishing work efficiency of the survivor creating a poor image of the organization.”