Decoding POSH Act: what all companies need to know

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The Objective of the Act is to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and also to prevent and reduce the number of complaints against sexual harassment and other connected and incidental issues.

Origin of POSH Law
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 3 September 2012.

The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at workplace Act is applicable to every workplace, establishment, company or organization employing 10 or more employees (full time, part-time, interns or consultants included) irrespective of the location or nature of the industry. It is applicable across India to all establishments, governments and private. Even domestic women workers are also given protection under the purview of this Act.

Defining Sexual Harassment under POSH
The Act defines sexual harassment quite widely, and also includes ‘quid pro quo’ harassment, such as promises of advancement in return for sex.
Sexual harassment does not have to involve physical contact but could, for example, include sexual remarks, sexually explicit pictures or screensavers and inappropriate advances made directly or via social networking sites.

Sexual Harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) such as:
•   Physical conduct and advances
•   A demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or
•   Showing pornography or
•   Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
•   The harassment in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment as follows amount to serious misbehaviour and the same is required to be viewed seriously
•   Implied or implicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment or
•   Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status

Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at WORKPLACE Act
The Act utilises the concept of the ‘extended workplace.’ In addition to the office of the employer or employee, any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by the employer for the purpose of commuting to and from the place of employment, will also constitute a workplace.
Further, social settings endorsed or financed by the employer are also considered a workplace under POSH law.

Establishing a mechanism to address POSH-related complaints
If an organisation wants to be POSH compliant, it must have a mechanism for employers to address complaints relating to sexual harassment.

This channel is known as the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) or Internal Committee (IC).

Reporting requirements under POSH Law
The IC must also prepare an annual report for submission to the employer and the local labour district office. This mandatory report must include:
•   Number of cases received and resolved
•   Number of cases pending for more than 90 days
•   Actions taken by the employer
•   Number of workshops or awareness programmes undertaken.

There is also an obligation under the Act for the employer to include this POSH law-related annual report in the company’s annual report.

Non-compliance to POSH act will result in heavy monetary penalty, additional damages and company license cancellation.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has made it mandatory for all private companies to make disclosure of compliance under “POSH Act” through their Annual Board Report.

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