Towards A Safer Workplace: The Guidelines In Brief

Towards A Safer Workplace:

The Guidelines In Brief

Newsletter Sept 1997

1. It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in workplaces and other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment, and to provide for the resolution, settlement and prosecution of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.

2. Definition: Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implica­tion) as : a) Physical contact and advances; b) A demand or request for sexual favours; c) Sexually coloured remarks; d) Showing pornography; e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

The Court noted “It is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable grounds to believe that her objection would disadvan­tage her in connection with her employment or work, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile work environment.”

3. Preventive Steps: All employers or persons-in-charge of workplaces, whether in the public or private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment:

a) Express prohibition of sexual harassment at the workplace should be notified, published and circulated.

b) The Rules/Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules/regula­tions prohibiting sexual harassment, and provide for penalties against offenders.

c) Steps should be taken by private employers in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment Act, 1946.

d) Work conditions should be provided in respect of work, lei­sure, health and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at workplaces.

4. Criminal Proceedings: Where such conduct amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law, the employer shall initiate action by making a complaint with the appropriate authority. In particular it should ensure that the victims or witnesses are not victimised or discriminated against while dealing with com­plaints of sexual harassment. The victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator, or their own transfer if they so desire.

5. Disciplinary Action: Where such conduct amounts to misconduct as defined by the rele­vant service rules, disciplinary action should be initiated by the employer.

6. Complaint Mechanism: Whether or not such conduct constitutes an offence under law or a breach of the service rules, an appropriate, time-bound complaint mechanism should be created for redressal of complaints.

7. Complaints Committee: The complaint mechanism should provide, where necessary, a Com­plaints Committee, a special counsellor or other support service. Confidentiality should be maintained in all these dealings. The Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman, and not less than half of its members should be women. To prevent the possibility of undue influence from senior levels, such Com­plaints Committees should involve a third party such as an NGO or other body familiar with the issue. This Committee must make an annual report to the concerned Gov­ernment Department regarding the complaints received and action taken.

8. Workers’ Initiative: Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at workers’ meetings and in other appropriate forums. It should be affirmatively discussed in Employer-Employee meetings

9. Awareness: Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created, in particular by prominently notifying the guidelines (and legislation when enacted) in a suitable manner.

10. Third Party Harassment: Where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act by any third party or outsider, the employer and person-in-charge will take all necessary steps to assist the affected person in terms of support and preventive action

11. The Central/State Governments are requested to consider adopting suitable. measures including legislation, to ensure that the guidelines laid down by this order are also observed by the employers in the private sector.