Despite a law, many cos do not have internal complaints panels

Legal National Safety Women

Women demand them to deal with the cases of harassment

A safe environment for women will encourage them to join the workplace

Despite a legal mandate, many workplaces do not have Internal Complaints Committees to deal with complaints of sexual harassment of women employees.

Under Section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, an employer who has 10 or more than 10 workers is required to establish an ICC.

Advocate Alagammai T, who is a legal member in an ICC of a company, said it is mandatory for all companies to have ICCs.

“If a woman faces harassment at her workplace, generally she hesitates to file a complaint in a police station. Either she is threatened by the perpetrator or she is worried about her future at the workplace. To solve this problem, a company is required to set up an ICC. This enables the survivor to raise her voice,” she added.

“An ICC consists of four members that includes a presiding officer, a senior woman employee, two members among the employees (preferences is given to people who are legally educated, or to someone who are in social work or activism related to women) and one external member (an advocate). A company which does not have an ICC can be fined Rs 50,000.”

Radhika Acharya (name changed), who works in an IT company in Bellandur, said: “I started working in the company in 2018. The company did not have an ICC till 2019. There are more than 50 women employees. It’s only after a few of us approached the HR department that a committee was set up.”

Riya Agrawal, a content writer at a firm in Agra, said: “There are a total of 55-60 female employees in our firm. Though no harassment has happened here yet, I still, think the firm should have an ICC. The working hours of our office are from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm. We do overtime work too; sometimes it extends till 10 pm. It would be better if we had an ICC at our workplace.”

Anik Guho, a senior software developer at Lab-advantage  Solutions, Kolkata, said: “We have an ICC at our office. The committee’s main responsibility is to provide an environment free of gender-based discrimination.”

Asked about the term of the committee members, he replied: “The presiding officer and every member of the ICC shall hold office for a period not exceeding three years from the date of nomination as a member.”

Sarika Joseph (name changed), who works as an accountant in a corporation in Delhi, said: “I never even gave a thought to it. I never realized that my workplace does not have an Internal Complaint Committee.”

According to NCRB data for 2021, Delhi tops in incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace among metropolitan cities, followed by Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune.

Sayani Ghosh HR and administration manager at The Grand, a hotel in Asansol, shared: “We have 50 male employees and 40 female employees. The harassment complaint rate of our company stands at 5%. We do not have an Internal Complaint Committee, but the victims had approached us (the HR department).

“We give the accused a verbal warning at first.  If that does not work, we give that person a warning letter.” If the accused continues to harass the complainant, the company sacks him.

Harassment at workplace is punishable under Section 354(a) of the Indian Penal Code. According to the NCRB report, 17,107 cases of harassment at workplace were reported in 2021.

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