In the early days, people thought no one is going to office, so why is POSH needed any more. And then, slowly, as the situation evolved, so did the dimensions to POSH.

The last seven months have tested and tried us all and the business community has raced against time to meet the needs of an evolving situation. They had to quicky adapt to prolonged work from home, meet consumer needs amidst lockdown, pivot on business models, come up with ways of dealing with employee needs and concerns, work on business recovery and continuity despite challenges. And amidst all this, something that begged attention was ‘Prevention of Sexual Harassment’ or commonly known as ‘POSH’.

In the early days, people thought no one is going to office, so why is POSH needed any more. And then, slowly, as the situation evolved, so did the dimensions to POSH. So, let’s decode a few of them here.

1. Sexual harassment is not confined to physical boundaries or an office space. Sexual harassment can also happen on virtual platforms. If one looks at the definitions of ‘sexual harassment’ as per the Act, all of them are possible on virtual platforms, from ‘quid pro quo’ to creating ‘hostile work environment’. And given that we are all working remotely, or in hybrid working models, with higher insecurity around jobs, victims might not come out openly and complain. Creating awareness that despite the current situation, organisations continue to be ‘zero tolerance spaces’ and ‘virtual sexual harassment’ is also covered under POSH is required.

2. With several companies announcing permanent work from home or deciding to opt for hybrid working models (part population to be in office and part work from home), the definition of workplace will extend to include ‘home’. Till now organisations have been able to maintain an arm’s length from an employee’s personal problems. But now, if ‘home’ is a ‘hostile work environment’ that impacts that employee’s productivity, willy-nilly, it becomes an organisation’s direct problem. As per data, there have been the highest number of domestic cases reposted in India during the Covid pandemic than in the last 10 years, and that is when statistics reveal that 86% women never seek help. This is very soon going to become a major problem, and organisations need to ramp up their policies and infrastructure to deal with this.

3. Building capabilities of ICC — conducting investigations in physical formats vs in virtual formats, the efficacy, the duration, ensuring fairness, empathy, diligence despite constraints of virtual environment.

4. Reconciliation — Reconciliation can be considered by ICC, only if the complainant asks for it. This has been difficult enough to drive in physical scenarios, how do we drive this in remote working when we cannot control who is influencing them through calls? We need to reach out to employees and assure them through proactive sessions, townhalls, chats on scenarios when to consider reconciliation and when to not.

5. Sexual harassment is not confined to one gender only. in the last few years, the narrative of diversity and inclusion has evolved with the inclusion of LGBTQIA in the workforce. It’s time organisations made their policies gender neutral; some organisations already do have gender neutral POSH policies. The Act lays down the basic guidelines. Nothing stops us on building on that.

Lastly, sexual harassment does not have only a direct implication on employee productivity and wellbeing but a long-lasting impact on the employee’s emotional and mental wellbeing and behaviour, with a ripple effect on family, children and the society at large. It is a ticking time bomb that is begging attention and we need to take cognizance of it now and take action now. The cost of doing something today will be far lower than the cost of dealing with the repercussion tomorrow.

The author, Sonica Aron, is Founder & Managing Partner at Marching Sheep.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHRWorld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHRWorld will not be responsible for any damage caused to any person or organisation directly or indirectly.