Organisations must realign themselves to prevent and address sexual harassment during work from home

Delhi: With virtual workplaces becoming a new normal and organisations embracing mass remote working, corporate India must reassess the POSH Policy to ensure that it effectively covers ‘workplace’ and has robust processes to prevent and address any unfortunate events, says Samir Paranjpe, Partner and Forensics Leader at Grant Thornton Bharat.

While India has been proactively working to address issues related to data privacy, client confidentiality and adapting to collaborative tools to support remote working, there are remote workplace issues that require attention. A large urban working population, approximately three million, is now working from home. It is expected that the demand for remote work will increase up to 30% by 2030. While employees may be at home, they continue to operate in a ‘workplace’, which employers must ensure remains safe and free of harassment.

“Instances of sexual harassment and misconduct continue to grapple corporate India. The only difference is that such instances have now gone digital. With the boundaries of workplace blurring and an increasing number of organisations engaging with contract/gig workers, it is pertinent for organisations to realign their POSH Policy to ensure prevention as well as swift action,” says Paranjpe.

Six considerations to relook at POSH policy

  1. Define workplace: Articulate clearly what constitutes a ‘workplace’, which today extends to an employee’s home, where official business is conducted from.
  2. Coverage: The more people are engaged on a contractual basis, the greater the need to define who all fall under the purview of the policy.
  3. Address ethical dilemmas: Sensitise and train employees as well as create awareness on expected standards of professional behaviour, including what constitutes sexual harassment while working from home.
  4. Provide redressal mechanism: Reporting such instances is even more challenging digitally. Define how the aggrieved can file a complaint (via e-mail or phone) and provide a strict timeframe to investigate the same.
  5. Go beyond the law: Although the POSH Act in India is applicable to women, there are increasing instances of men being sexually harassed, as well. Focus on diversity and inclusion and ensure the policy covers everyone.
  6. Monitor implementation: An annual review by an independent agency of the performance of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) should be

 

“In the digital world, there are three best practices to ensure a safe working environment. First, build awareness by conducting regular skill building workshops, sensitising employees using audio-visual

means, conducting anonymous survey, educating those in authority to check unconscious bias, etc. Second, build support system check in on teams regularly and advocate a zero-tolerance policy. Third, prevent and protect by using technology as an enabler for workplace safety, conducting background checks of all third-party staff and holding awareness sessions for customers, suppliers, vendors to they can report any unwelcome behaviour,” says Paranjpe.

Grant Thornton Bharat conducted an exclusive webinar Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH): Re-designing your policy for the new normal on Thursday.