India Inc. lax against sexual harassment: Survey

stop sexual harassmentNearly a third of the companies operating in India are yet to constitute the mandatory panel against sexual harassment at workplace, with the incidence of non-compliance higher among domestic entities, reveals a survey.

The Ernst and Young survey reveals that 40 percent of the respondents were yet to train the members of their internal complaints committees even though it is mandatory under the law that came into force in December 2013.

The survey was conducted between January and April 2015 through an online questionnaire hosted on EY’s website in India. It received 129 responses from the survey, the consultancy said.

Another finding: 44 percent the respondents did not display the penal consequences at a conspicuous places, as also required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

What is more, the lack of awareness about constituting the panel was 67 percent among electronics and telecom firms, 59 percent in banking and financial services firms, and 40 percent each in IT, and advertising, media and entertainment companies.

The nature of complaints: 47 percent for physical contact and advances, 13 percent over demand or request for sexual favours, 37 percent over sexually colored remarks, and four percent over display of pornographic content.

“The government’s intent is to put a brake on such cases,” said Arpinder Singh, partner and national leader of fraud investigation and dispute services with Ernst and Young.

Sexual harassment as per law includes unwelcome acts or behaviour – whether directly or by implication – such as physical contact and advance, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, etc.

The study also quoted data compiled by the National Commission for Women that showed noticeable rise in sexual harassment at the workplace: From 170 cases in 2011, to 167 in 2012, 249 in 2013, and 336 in 2014.

Ernst and Young said there was hope yet. “It is not impossible for corporate India to provide a safe place of work for their women employees,” it said. Its prescription:

– Constitute internal committees

– Ensure the presiding officer is a woman at a senior level

– Not less than two members from employees committed to the women’s cause

– One member from non-governmental organisations

– Formulate and disseminate internal policy listing all aspects including remedy

– Drive awareness through online and off-line training

– Investigate complaints and take strict action against perpetrators

– Monitor timely submission of reports by panels to the government

– Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under service rules

– Initiate action for such misconduct.