This post is part of the “Comprehensive Guide to POSH Compliance in the New Normal”. If you wish to view the Main blog, click here.
Organizational Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy (POSH Policy) forms the basic set of service rules related to the POSH Act in the organization. For the New Normal, let us start here:
Workplace Definition in the POSH Policy:
The POSH Policy may have a conventional definition of the workplace, such as the Premises with in the physical boundaries or may just include the transportation (if provided by the Employer) as described by the POSH law. But there is a part in between which states that Workplace is “any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment”. This must now include the Work from Home scenario. We all believe that “Work-From-Home” or “Remote Work” is here to stay and grow. So, you must clarify the definition of Workplace in you POSH Policy. The other points to be included in the definition are:
- Physical or Digital space when an employee is connected to work, even if it is from home, coffee shop or hotel room
- Office provided Telecom or Communication channels – Phone, Internet, Chat, Email, Video/Audio Conference tools, Collaboration tools etc.,
- Publicly available social media or other electronic tools if used to communicate between employees for both official and personal purposes. Ex. WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook
This should enable the organization to provide protection to the employees even when working from home.
Work from Home / Remote Work Policy
It is recommended you create a Work from Home or Remote Work Policy if your organization doesn’t have one. It would also be prudent to address the following points in the POSH policy.
- Cross reference to the POSH Policy to confirm that Work-from-Home or Remote-work will be considered as Workplace and the Code of Conduct or Service Rules would apply.
- Provide general guidelines to Reasonable Work Timing to schedule meetings or calls virtually. – This is to address the numerous cases that arise due to the lack of clarity about the same.
- Provide flexibility to the user to decide about coming on ad-hoc Video calls, and stay on Audio Only mode if they feel uncomfortable – Demonstrates sensitivity to the fact that dressing etiquette rules, working environment etc., have been significantly relaxed and may not be conducive for an Ad-hoc Video Conference.
- If it’s a mandatory video call, make it a requirement for the organizer to provide sufficient and reasonable advance notice to the participants of the call to make arrangements.
- When on a Video call or Audio call, all parties involved should make sure the environment, dressing etiquette is maintained. This can avoid visual harassment using indecent or ultra-casual approach like dressing, pictures or writings on the T-Shirts, Wall posters in the room.
Enable Digital Proceedings in the POSH Policy
The times are unprecedented, even the honorable Courts are conducting their proceedings virtually. This is bound to expedite the digital movement by a decade. It is important that the POSH Policy allows the IC to conduct the proceedings digitally.
- If the POSH policy reads that the complainant must provide (3 copies of) written complaint to the IC as prescribed by the law, the policy may be appended to receive complaints electronically. This may include email to one or many of the IC members, Online Grievance Redressal form and other electronic modes as available.
- Receiving Complaints:
- Organization may also create a monitored e-mailbox or Email Distribution list for the Internal Committee to make it easier for the complainant.
- Add enabling provisions in the POSH Policy to allow IC to conduct Inquiries virtually if the current policy mandates physical enquiry. This will help avoid delays in scheduling and conducting a physical enquiry.
- If your organization plans to use Video conferencing to conduct inquiry during the Pandemic or Remote working, make sure this is enabled in the POSH policy with wording such as “Circumstances where a physical inquiry cannot be conducted, Internal Committee may use Video Conferencing tools to conduct inquiry“. Read the Inquiry Procedures section to understand whether Video based inquiry can be conducted or forced.
- The Statements after the Inquiry or Cross examinations cannot be physically signed during these times. So, the POSH policy may add a note that it can be confirmed by the parties concerned by email. Restrict all communication only on the official email ID of the individual. If your organization uses or plan to use Online Digital Document signing tool, then you may add that to the POSH policy.