Empowering Equality: The Evolution of Workplace Safety through the POSH Act

Empowering Equality: The Evolution of Workplace Safety through the POSH Act

Workplace safety has made great stride in recent years, with significant process in ensuring the welfare and security of employees. A pivotal achievement in this journey has been the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 commonly referred to as the POSH Act. This momentous legislation in India has played a vital role in shaping the landscape of workplace safety and cultivating an environment of gender equality. In this article we will delve into the development of workplace safety through the POSH Act and its impact on both organizations and their employees. The necessity for such laws was acknowledged by the Indian Supreme Court in the landmark case of Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan. In the absence of any regulations addressing the issue of sexual harassment of women in the workplace, the Supreme Court, acting under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, issued guidelines to be followed by all organizations and institutions until legislation was enacted. In the matter of Apparel Export Promotion Council vs A.K. Chopra, the Supreme Court held that the employer can be held vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by its employees, even if the employer was not directly involved. The court emphasized the need for employers to exercise due diligence in preventing and addressing sexual harassment. 

The Supreme court recognized the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution, specifically Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(g), and 2, as well as the principles outlined in the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the Government of India in 1993. The Supreme Court’s directives were to regarded as legally binding per Article 141 of the Constitution. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) developed a comprehensive statement that effectively defines and provides context for activities falling under the category of ‘Sexual Harassment’. According to the EEOC, sexual harassment encompasses “unwanted sexual advances of sexual nature, requests for sexual favors, and other forms of verbal and physical conduct that are sexual in nature”. Every organization with 10 or more employees is required by POSH rules to develop a POSH policy. Infractions of these rules may result in fines. A detailed POSH policy can help to provide a safe and comfortable environment free of sexual harassment for employees. It can help prevent instances of sexual harassment and provide a mechanism for employees to report any incidents of harassment without any fear of retaliation. The employees may also get the feeling of being cared and looked after by the employer. A POSH policy can enhance the overall reputation of a business. A well-implemented policy on preventing sexual harassment has the potential to foster gender diversity within a company. It achieves this by establishing an environment where all employees feel secure, valued and respected. Consequently, this can result in an increase in the representation of women in leadership roles and contribute to overall workplace diversity. An all-encompassing POSH policy serves to create a positive workplace culture that upholds principles of mutual respect, dignity and equality. The benefits of such a policy extend beyond the prevention of sexual harassment as it also fosters higher levels of employee satisfaction, productivity and engagement. 

Although the POSH act has unquestionably represented a substantial advancement in guaranteeing workplace safety, there are still obstacles to overcome. The effectiveness of the Act is impeded by gaps in implementation, insufficient awareness and cultural barriers. Consequently, it is imperative to make persistent endeavors to tackle these challenges and fortify the Act’s implementation. By maintaining unwavering dedication and taking collective action, the development of workplace safety through the POSH Act will persist in creating safer and more inclusive work environments.  

Author- Avni Bhayani

A student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai



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