The Ministry of Women and Child Development has notified December 9, 2013 as the effective date of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Sexual Harassment Act). The ministry has also notified the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 which provide clarity in respect of some of the procedural aspects of the new law.
The Sexual Harassment Act has been enacted with the objective of providing female employees protection against sexual harassment at the workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment. As a result of the notification, employers in India now have several obligations.
Mandatory Obligations on the Employer:
- The need to implement a policy prohibiting sexual harassment against female employees at the workplace (policy should be consistent with the requirements under the law)
- Prominently displaying in the office premise, the penal consequences of sexual harassment and also, the structuring of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
- Constituting an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to investigate any allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace.
- Organizing workshops and awareness programs regularly for sensitization of employees on the issue.
- Providing necessary training, orientation and facilities to the ICC.
- Assisting the female employee to make a police compliant.
- Including sexual harassment as a ‘misconduct’ in its HR policies.
- To address the grievances regarding sexual harassment at workplace in a time bound manner.
Consequences of Non-Compliance for the Employer:
Penal Consequences of Sexual Harassment:
- Where the employer fails to comply with the provisions contained in the Act, a monetary penalty of upto FIFTY THOUSAND RUPEES has been prescribed.
- Where the offence has been repeated by the employer, he is punishable by upto twice the earlier punishment and cancellation of license or registration required for carrying on his business or activity or cancellation of any other licenses granted by any government department.
- Accused person may be sentenced with rigorous imprisonment up to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- Failure to comply with the provisions of the Act even after having knowledge of an incident as prescribed in the Act will result into employer being charged under Indian Penal Code for abetment and subsequent sections.
Therefore, it is now entirely mandatory for an employer to provide the much needed grievance redressal process for working women and to comply with all the provisions and rules of the Act. This to inform you of the new developments in the labour laws which is now applicable to your Company/organisation and we encourage you to comply with the procedure and guidelines given in the Act.