Sexual harassment faced by women at their work place has been a serious issue. The Supreme Court had come out with the Vishaka Guidelines in the year 1997 that set the ground rules for protecting women from all kinds of harassment at the work place. It was replaced by the ‘Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act’ in the year 2013. As per the new Act, all organisations that have 10 or more employees have to follow certain regulations.
The Act extends the meaning of the word sexual harassment to include “presence or occurrence of circumstances of implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment, threat of detrimental treatment in employment, threat about present or future employment, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, or humiliating treatment likely to affect the lady employee’s health or safety could also amount to sexual harassment”.
Women leaders share with Adgully, what the Vishaka Guidelines and the Act following that means for working women as well as what measures different organisations have in place to tackle issues related to harassment of women at the work place.
Priyanka Shah, Director – Mobile, Isobar India:
“DAN at a group level has started an initiative called DAN’s Women’s Council. The primary objective of this Council is to inspire the working women within the organisation and address their day to day challenges and grievances to ensure a level playing field and avoid any gender bias. Majority of men leadership at DAN and Isobar are extremely committed to this initiative and are leaving no stone unturned to make this platform and opportunity to boost more and more women to take up leadership positions helping them strike a balance in personal and professional life. When men act as change agents, the programme becomes free from any prejudices and policies are viewed as fair and neutral. Men can be involved as mentors for women or as core members of the design and implementation team of the programme.”
Shilpa Chitre, Head – Human Resources, Grey Group India:
“A few years ago, the Vishaka Guidelines were promulgated as a law – ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013’. Grey has a well-defined policy in line with law, along with fully functioning Internal Committees at each location. We have a special email set up, where any complaint of harassment can be raised and the Committee addresses each complaint brought to it; employees with a grievance can also simply speak to any member of the Committee. The Internal Committee has been fully trained in handling complaints with sensitivity, speed, and decisiveness. Grey is committed to being a zero-tolerance workplace when it comes to harassment.”
Nisha Narayanan, COO, 93.5 Red FM:
“Women are an integral part of the Organisation and we remain committed in keeping Red FM woman friendly. Any sort of complaint/ vices received by us from any women employee is never taken kindly, whether it occurs within or outside the office premises. A special committee already exists to deal with any complaint of Sexual Harassment. The Committee undertakes a thorough investigation, verify and confirm any complaint lodged against sexual harassment and severe action is taken against the employee if the complaint is proved.”
Sonia Huria, Head – Communications & CSR, Viacom18:
“Yes, we have implemented the Guidelines and have laid down a grievance redressal mechanism. We also conduct regular compliance workshops, which are mandatory for all employees so that they are aware of the right channels to file the grievances and receive time bound treatment to complaints. These workshops are for all employees, ensuring that both men and women are aware of the redressal mechanism as well as of the appropriate behaviour at workplace.”
Kranti Gada, Senior VP, Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd:
“The Vishaka Guidelines are a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment and has been implemented at our origination. Safe working environment is a fundamental right of a working woman and Shemaroo Entertainment has always stood strongly for this. Utmost care is taken to ensure there is a conducive environment at the work place and no female employee is ever discriminated against a male employee. We also have flexible working hours for female employees and especially for new mothers. While I head the Vishaka Committee at office, I feel that managers should always take cognizance of their team’s work culture and ensure the women in the team feel secure and motivated. I am personally always open to discussing issues that our women employee our facing. Whether it is a professional hiccup or personal or difficulty in dabbling both, our female employees can always walk up to me and have an open chat.”
Megha Tata, COO, BTVI:
“BTVI is a company committed to creating a healthy working environment that enables employees to work without fear of prejudice, gender bias and a harassment free workplace to all employees. On this endeavour and in line with the Vishaka Guidelines, we have articulated a detailed Policy for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) as part of our Employee Handbook, which elaborates process for lodging complaint, inquiry procedure and also the composition of Internal Complaints Committee.”
Ambika Sharma, Founder & Managing Director, Pulp Strategy:
“Yes, our organisation has complied with the Vishaka Guidelines since its inception. We also annually file an audit report of the complaints received, if any, that are made by our employees. A strict and standing instruction has been given to the HR department that behavioural misconducts that fall under these set of guidelines are not to be tolerated at all in Pulp Strategy. Perpetrators of such acts are dealt with swift and harshest punitive measures.”
Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML South East Asia and India:
“Yes, we have. We have implemented a training programme to educate all employees on the anti-harassment policy and have set up a committee that is primarily for women to reach out and address their grievances. We have ensured that this committee has an equal number of women and men in attendance to strengthen perspective on issues people are facing with a fair hearing. We feel that men need to be as much a part of the process as women.”
Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect India:
“In large corporations and media companies this is taken very seriously. There are regular training programmes that all employees are mandated to complete and SOPs are in place to address and respond to any relevant grievances. The challenge may be in the SMEs and MSMEs, where the implementation of such policies may be absent or poor.”
Vrutika Dawda, Director, IdeateLabs:
“We encourage our employees to speak out and voice their concerns. Designations do not matter. Right from a director to an intern, every voice is heard. Our ever present HR personnel are always at hand to hear one out, and one-to-one conversations are common. If an issue is raised, it is sensitively discussed and investigated by an established panel of five people consisting of the HR manager, a male employee, a neutral external consultant and two female employees. During this time, the complainant is treated with care and respect, and above all given the support they need.”
Aditi Balbir, Founder & CEO, V Resorts:
“As a growing company in today’s age, we have always been extremely sensitive to issues surrounding harassment at workplace. We’ve had a committee on sexual harassment in place for years now and although incidents have been few, we have dealt with cases such as one at an offbeat resort location where a female staff felt uncomfortable with the behaviour of some of her male colleagues and the same was dealt with immediately by the committee and me.”
Sinu Joseph, Managing Trustee, Mythri Speaks:
“Mythri Speaks Trust has just about 4-5 of us who are volunteering and hence, we do not come under the legal formalities as yet. However, I am on the Board of the Internal Complaints Committee of 2 entities and have conducted workshops on this Act for more than 15-20 corporates covering more than 2,000 employees, via HR companies.”
Niyati Vora, Vice President – Brand Activation, Wizcraft International
Yes, we have applied the Vishaka Guidelines in our company. An internal complaint committee has been set up where all and any complaints of sexual harassment by any woman employee is directed. It provides the woman employee a safe working environment where she has the right to work with dignity & honor. She is in no way discriminated at the workplace against male employees. We conduct workshops and discussions regularly to keep our women employees informed. It is very important to have an open dialogue when it comes to such sensitive matters. At Wizcraft, we take the well-being (both physical & mental) of our employees very seriously. The freedom to express an opinion or address an issue without it becoming a problem is what makes the work environment at Wizcraft so healthy and happy.