Conciliation under the POSH Act
Picture this – a senior male employee tries to make a sexual advance at a female employee inside an office’s conference room, well out of reach of other employees. The female employee becomes uncomfortable and requests that the male employee take a step back. He doesn’t listen and continues to make an advance verbally. She quickly gathers her things and leaves. This continues for a few more days after which she tells the male senior that if he doesn’t stop being persistent, she will approach the company’s Internal Committee to report the behaviour. However, she is confused as to how to report the case, and to what extent should the IC intervene to solve it. She approaches the IC to understand her rights, and find out about the informal redressal under the law.
The process of conciliation is defined under Section 10 of the POSH Act. Conciliation, as the term suggests, is the possibility of two parties arriving at a settlement. Reporting an inappropriate sexual behaviour under the POSH Act can be done via written complaint seeking redressal through conciliation if the complainant so wishes. Briefly put, conciliation is one of the recourses to settling a complaint made on the grounds of sexual harassment at the workplace, when both parties agree to arrive at a settlement voluntarily.
Here’s a quick understanding of conciliation proceedings under the POSH Act:
|Who can conduct?||Internal Committee (IC)|
|Who can initiate?||Complainant|
|When can it be initiated?||The Complainant chooses whether they want conciliation or inquiry|
|When is it complete?||Complainant and respondent both agree to the terms of settlement|
|What are the penalties involved?||Apology, counselling, social or community service hours|
The IC’s role here is to ensure complainants become aware of their rights upon filing a sexual harassment complaint, and to help them understand that if both parties so wish, the matter can be voluntarily settled with the help of a conciliation proceeding instead of an investigation.
The law envisages a situation where conciliation may not result in a settlement between the two parties and hence in the event the parties are unable to arrive at a settlement via the conciliation, the matter can be referred to inquiry by the committee.
In terms of the proceedings, the IC acts as a neutral party to the conciliation process. While conciliation proceedings are ongoing, the IC needs to:
Elements of Conciliation
Role of SHLC in Training IC Members
The POSH Act has some room for interpretation and allows complainants to decide whether they want to conclude a case via conciliation instead of undertaking a full-fledged investigation. However, to fully be aware of one’s rights, or to have a matter presided over neutrally, individuals look to their IC members for support. This makes it imperative for IC members to undergo regular training so that they are completely aware of their roles and responsibilities in a conciliation, or otherwise.
SHLC provides training to help IC members refresh their knowledge and build awareness on how to carry out conciliation proceedings.
To book a demo training on how to conduct conciliation proceedings, get in touch with SHLC today. Reach us at email@example.com
Do you have a POSH query that you need help with? Reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and our team will assist you.
Note – This article is not a substitute for legal advice or consultation with a lawyer, who will be in a better position to advise you with respect to the facts and circumstances of your case, but merely a tool to help the reader better understand laws relating to prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.