POSH 2.0 Roundtable Discussion
Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on POSH mechanisms
Over the past few months, different companies have adapted to the impact of COVID on their POSH mechanisms in different ways. Human Capital Magazine in Collaboration with SHLC- Sexual Harassment Law Compliance Advisory organized the POSH 2.0 Roundtable on Saturday, 24th October 2020. The POSH 2.0 Roundtable aimed towards understanding the new normal of virtual workplaces, remote working, and work from home and the need for revision of the prevention of sexual harassment mechanisms. The Roundtable also focussed on understanding the various POSH mechanisms that have been impacted and how organizations have adjusted to POSH 2.0.
Takeaways from the Roundtable
The Roundtable began with a discussion on how various organizations view sexual harassment and the policies they have implemented to prevent the same. Most panellists were of the belief that it is extremely pertinent to generate awareness about sexual harassment and the multiple aspects it covers. With a new normal way of life, they believe, it is important to make employees aware of what the POSH Act covers in a virtual workplace setting so that they make a conscious effort to watch their behaviour and actions while interacting with each other. Ms. Urvi Aaradhya, Chief Human Resource Officer, K Raheja Corp. and Mr. Viekas K Khokha, Head HR, Dhanuka Agritech Ltd. spoke about creating awareness among employees about maintaining professional etiquette virtually and respecting the personal boundaries of the colleagues by being weary of their time and space outside working hours.
The panellists traced back the first few steps they took in their respective organisations with respect to the POSH Act once the nationwide lockdown was announced. Ms. Rashmi Nagori, Execute Vice President Head HR, Edelweiss Wealth Management talked about how they started with initiating structured communication with the employees of the organisation. She conducted one on one sessions with the employees and helped them normalise various work from home situations. Ms. Heena Khurana, Assistant Manager HR Ferns N Petals talked about creating awareness among employees about what constitutes sexual harassment online in accordance with the POSH Act.
An important point which got highlighted was that organisations should bring about a cultural change in their administration instead of simply handing over etiquette rulebooks to the employees. To help employees adjust to the virtual workplace setting better, it is essential to give them proper training for instance, they should be informed in advance if they are required to switch on their videos during official calls. Ms. Geetanjali Wheeler, Sr. Learning and Development Leader emphasised on the ever – evolving human nature and how proper training can help employees understand professional online etiquette and also help them cope with the various challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.
Ms. Namita Bhardwaj, Senior Director HR, PropTiger.com emphasised on the need for respect in a workplace and the importance of setting it as a core value of the organisation. Talking about how this atmosphere of respect can be established in a virtual setting, Ms. Kalpana Bansal, Head Competency Assessment and Development, Reliance Industries Ltd. suggested the practice of “Reverse Youth” wherein young people can teach employees basic social media behaviour to help them adjust and understand what kind of online practices are unacceptable and may be seen as harassment.
Taking cognizance of the role of mental health during the pandemic and with respect to POSH, Ms. Manvi Sushil, HR Director, Avery Dennison emphasised on the need to understand the relationship between mental health and sexual harassment at workplaces. She talked about how it is essential to help employees cope with the self – isolation that the pandemic has subjected them to.
While discussing the various practices they have adopted to restructure their Internal Committees to suit the virtual workplace environment, the panellists spoke about introducing toll – free numbers and chatbots for clearing of doubts relating to POSH to create easy accessibility to the process of POSH. They also spoke about including all genders in their sexual harassment policies to ensure diversity and acceptance in the workplace. Another suggestion discussed was organising assistance programs for employees to provide them third – party assistance and counselling to help them cope with their mental health concerns.
Our teams have also created a POSH 2.0 checklist for employers, HR professionals, senior management, organization leaders and consultants to help them ensure that their organisation is POSH 2.0 ready:
o Amending the organization POSH policy to include WFH & virtual sexual harassment
o Circulation of amended POSH policy with employees, consultants, interns and stakeholders
o Conducting awareness and sensitization sessions on sexual harassment in a WFH environment
o Circulating posters on virtual sexual harassment at workplace
o Vetting of other policies of the company to align work protocols such as dress code, anti-harassment policy etc.
o Setting up of anonymous portal- chat box, and/or complaint box for reporting inappropriate behavior
o Circulation of Internal Committee Email ID and contact numbers of IC member
o Conducting anonymous employee surveys and check-ins to know their comfort level
o Setting up of SOP- Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Committees for POSH inquiries
o Training IC members on methods of conducting POSH procedures during WFH