'Over 30 pc firms fail to set up sexual abuse complaint panels'

Last Updated : 28 November 2015, 05:13 IST
Last Updated : 28 November 2015, 05:13 IST

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More than 30 per cent of Indian companies have not constituted internal complaints committees (ICCs) mandated by the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013. 

According to a report by FICCI and Ernst and Young (EY) titled ‘Fostering Safe Workplaces' , nearly 36 per cent of Indian companies and 25 per cent among multinational corporations (MNCs) are not compliant with the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.

The report is important in the light of figures by the National Commission for Women that there is a “noticeable” rise in sexual harassment at the workplace. From 249 complaints of sexual harassment at workplace in 2013, the year 2014 saw over double the number at 526 complaints. 

The FICCI report also showed that 40 per cent of the respondents are yet to train their ICC members. While Indian companies fared low with 47 per cent, MNCs were worse at 34 per cent.

At the day-long workshop at the FICCI auditorium, experts argued that there are areas in the law which still need some improvement.

“In 2013, we saw cases like an intern accusing a former Supreme Court Judge of sexually harassing her. The case brought forward the problem that the law does not extend to the judiciary,” said Urvashi Butalia, a writer who heads the feminist publishing house Zubaan.

She noted that safety of women cannot be seen in isolation in workplace and “we need to look at the space between the home and work place and also sexual harassment taking place by employers outside the office.”

Continuous improvement

“We will give suggestions for continuous improvement in the law,” she said.
She, however, acknowledged that the country has come a long way from “a subject barely recognised” to framing the law.

Highlighting the need for companies to display the details of the internal complaints committee and the penal consequences of sexual harassment, Kanika Bhutani, Director, EY Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services, said that 44 per cent of the respondent organisations did not display the penal consequences of sexual harassment in their premises.

Risha Syed, legal consultant with the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development, highlighted that the law needs to put in place a policy which defines what behavior will constitute sexual harassment in an organisation, what is the complaint channel, the redressal mechanism, and the process of enquiry.

“These should be part of any sexual harassment policy and should be publicised everywhere in the office,” she said.

Uday Dutt, former IAS and currently Advisor, EY said that some times the accused are let off easily by the companies for the fear of loss of reputation.

“Some companies let them go gracefully, instead of sacking them. This increases the chances of the accused to repeating the offence,” he said.

Published 28 November 2015, 05:13 IST

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