With the advent of Information technology in India more and more females started to work and total female workforce increased considerably. The nature of the work and desk jobs acted as a catalyst and attracted more and more females to the workplace contradictory to the less percentage of female employees in the previous times. And as the organizations started recruiting more and more female employees to bridge the gender gap in the workforce the threats of sexual harassment become more prevalent. With the increased in female employee percentage the incidence of sexual harassment also increased. To bring more importance to gender diversity in workforce and make the environment safer for female employee’s, employers focused their attention towards prevention of sexual harassment (POSH) in the workplace. It is important to understand the definition of Sexual Harassment before diving deep into one of the contemporary prevalent topics. “Sexual harassment” includes unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) such as physical contact and advance, a demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography etc.”(“ey-reining-in-sexual-harassment-at-the-workplace-in-india.pdf,” n.d.)
Sexual harassment of Women at workplace bill was passed in 2013 in India. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Capgemini, Tech Mahindra, Sunlife Financial etc. started giving more attention to the diverse workforce by welcoming more females on board through organizing special female recruiting drives. Tech Mahindra planning to increase its female workforce from 26.5 % (Tech Roles) to 30 % and hiring 50% fresh women graduate(Bhattacharya & Chaturvedi, 2015). As per Nasscom report IT-BPM industry has second highest workforce i.e. 34% women followed by Pharmacist 41% which is better than overall female workforce i.e. 24% (Raghuram, Herman, Ruiz-Ben, & Sondhi, 2017). Not just only focussing on hiring the more female employee but to retain them it is also equally important for an organization to provide them a safe place to work. Nowadays all companies started focussing more on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace by introducing training sessions for employees, providing guard facilities during pickup and drop of the female employee, arranging self-defence training etc.As the number of women employment increase the number of harassment case also goes up. As per studies done on 52 firms of BSE top 100 in 2017 445 cases were reported. The higher number of cases also signifies awareness of redressal system amongst employees. 65% of the cases reported in year 2017 were from IT industry followed by Banking sector. The maximum cases reported were in Wipro Ltd i.e. 116 (Bhuyan, 2017). One of the possible reason for highest number of case registered in IT industry could be good system present where one can register complain without any issue or it could be second maximum number of female employee strength. As companies started supporting women’s now feel comfortable to share the problems #MeToo kind of initiative also helping women to come forward to fight against harassment.Challenges and Solutions in a sexual harassment investigation:Complainants are not in the position to explain the incident in detail because of either insecurity or because of less trust in ICC committee. One of the biggest challenge is to win employees trust and handle such issues professionally. This approach will help to get relevant information which will help to resolve the issue. (“ey-reining-in-sexual-harassment-at-the-workplace-in-india.pdf,” n.d.). Including few women’s in complaint committee helps female employees to open up and explain the problem easily. Complainant, witnesses, Management and respondent play a vital role in inquiry process. It is important to give proper attention and intelligent handling to the matter as any information leakage during the whole process tarnish not only the reputation of organization but also of individuals. Failing to comply and if information disclosed publically during whole process will result in penalties supported by the Act. Verification is one of the biggest challenge especially if harassment occurred in closed area or where there was no witness present. Companies should use more CCTV cameras to monitor employees. Open door policy or putting name and contact details of members to whom one can contact in employee’s desk could also be possible solution of this problem. Since most of ICC (Internal complaint committee) members are part from organization only and don’t have expertise in executing methodological investigation to come into valid conclusion. As per Act it is necessary to provide special training session to ICC member however, as per survey done by EY 40% of respondents still didn’t trained their ICC members (“ey-reining-in-sexual-harassment-at-the-workplace-in-india.pdf,” n.d.). It is important for government to intervene and investigate if companies are abiding the laws of providing trainings to their ICC team or not. Also, there is possibility that since out of 4-5 people present in committee 2-3 people knows the complainant or respondents there is possibility that committee will come up with biased results. Now companies started taking help of Artificial Intelligence to resolve this issue as AI gives unbiased decisions. Use of external agencies to handle such matters could be other way to deal with such kind of sensitive issues. Also, it is equally important to keep the evidence in safe custody as it is required by ICC, or by court also, there is possibility that aggrieved party challenge if they found inappropriate custody of evidence. Comparison of Tech Mahindra and Sunlife POSH policies: POSH commonly stands for prevention of sexual harassment in work environment is part of both organization and zero tolerance policy is present in both. Both companies I worked for having good track record and doing a lot for female staff security. Based on comparison I have found that Sunlife policies are better as compared to Tech Mahindra. In Sunlife it is mandated to attend and pass this training and employee needs to do this at least twice a year. While there are guidelines present for POSH in Tech Mahindra but during my 3.7 years of work experience tenure no one asked me to attend this training. In Sunlife POSH training was designed in interesting way where they show some video of particular scenario and then gave real life scenarios type question to make sure employees understand the concept effectively. It is also very important to make such training effective companies needs to align it with their appraisal KRA so that employees will be more serious towards this training and try to understand its importance. Sunlife gives Pepper spray to all its female employees and ask them to carry always in their hand bag and conduct self-defense training often. While such efforts for employee’s safety is less visible in Tech Mahindra. In Sunlife POSH guidelines there is not any clause for the safety of men in harassment cases. It is important for organization to look into this aspect to remove the gender discrimination Conclusion:
For the growth of IT industry in India it is very important to manage female participation as more safety will attract more female employee and increase productivity and engagement. Spotlight on this issue surely will spur organization to take it more seriously. Now days there is increase in the number of false allegation especially after appraisals. It is important to handle complaints cautiously. Also, there is need to make some amendments in policies. Currently in Sunlife Financial Sexual Harassment clauses are meant for women’s only, it is equally important to include Men to remove gender discrimination. By providing more training and informing the repercussion one needs to face in case of find guilty will reduce the number in future.