Being a sensitive subject, most often instances of sexual harassment have been, metaphorically speaking, swept under the carpet. This stance needs to change. Recognising the general approach which has traditionally prevailed around this area, the Government introduced the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2013 to ensure the safety of women at their place of work. This proved to be a welcome move, compelling companies to take a deliberated stance and put preventive measures in place. Today, the importance of a robust sexual harassment prevention framework is especially necessary, given the rapid rise of women in the workforce.
Are companies’ basics in place?
After the completion of a year of its enforcement, it is understandable that there are still a number of contentions on leading methodologies and practices to embrace. What is startling however, is that many companies are still struggling to address this issue and queries still arise about the basics; the essential specifications of the Act.
So what can India Inc. do to curb this menace?
Taking a step forward, organisations need to also genuinely ask themselves, what can be done when a case comes up,
- Is the case genuine or malicious?
- How do we protect our employees?
- How do we ensure our employees trust us and report the instance internally?
The practicalities of handling such a sensitive situation are more challenging in reality than in concept. Some of the critical concerns that companies are facing today are determining the credibility of the complaint, the manner of holding the inquiry, and protecting against victimization.
Addressing issues and inspiring confidence
The key is to decipher the intrinsic change necessary in the culture of the organization. The conditioning of the collective organizational mind-set, to react to relevant situations in a specific manner is not a change that will take place overnight; it is a gradual process. Organizations therefore need to begin placing the right measures – which would include instituting Internal Complaints Committees, conducting training sessions for the members to reinforce their stance and forming policies and procedures which are easily accessible.
The fact of the matter is that companies still need to pay adequate heed and take subsequent action to achieve an unblemished record of maintaining decorum around sexual harassment. While the initial steps have been taken by corporate India, there is still much ground to cover.