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Last Updated : Oct 17, 2019 04:36 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

MeToo impact? Nifty50 firms see jump in sexual harassment plaints in FY19

Among the sectors, IT topped the list with a total of 335 complaints. This is a direct reflection of the fact that IT sector employs the maximum number of women in the country.

M Saraswathy @maamitalks

The MeToo movement may have led to a stormy debate in the country on the definition of sexual harassment. However, a clear impact has been seen in the increase in the number of complaints filed by women employees across India Inc.

Data compiled by Moneycontrol showed that a total of 704 complaints related to sexual harassment were filed across Nifty50 companies in FY19. In the year-ago period (FY18), 616 complaints were filed.

Sexual Harassment Cases at Nifty Companies

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A growing level of awareness has probably led to more number of women reporting cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. Human resource experts said that this was a direct result of the MeToo movement.

Among the sectors, the IT companies dominated the list with a total of 335 complaints. Wipro reported a total of 142 complaints (101 in FY18) being filed for allegations of sexual harassment in FY19.

In the banking sector, ICICI Bank had 59 complaints (99 in FY18) related to sexual harassment in FY19. The bank, however, said in its annual report that all the complaints were resolved in FY19 itself.

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder & Executive Vice President, TeamLease Services, said that from an HR perspective more number of complaints means that there is more disclosure, which is good. She said the rise in numbers is due to growing awareness among women.

“But the numbers are still much lower than what it ought to be. There are many organisations who have not a single instance notified which itself is surprising. That continues to be a cause of worry,” she added.

MeToo, a movement against sexual harassment started off globally in October 2017 after the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. This found its way to India soon after a series of allegations against Mumbai-based stand-up comics surfaced on Twitter in September 2018.

What is POSH Act?

All listed companies are required to report the number of complaints related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) as per law. This includes the number of cases and their status. However, all complainant names are to be kept anonymous.

According to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, a series of unwelcome remarks and actions would constitute sexual harassment. These include physical advances, demand for sexual favours, making sexually-coloured remarks as well as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

As per law, companies are required to have an internal complaints committee (ICC) in place, and required to disclose data related to such cases annually.

FY19_POSH

Not just employees, even temporary staff members and external partners can file complaints against the employees of a company.

All the Nifty constituents said in their annual reports that regular workshops on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act are being conducted in their offices. Further, sensitisation sessions for male employees is also being undertaken.

After the ICC report on the complaint is finalised, companies take a call on what action is to be taken against an erring employee.

More proactive steps

About 10 years ago, sexual harassment cases reported by women were mostly pushed under the carpet. Now companies are not only more proactive in terms of dealing with such cases, but also have set up policies to make the workplace safer.

For instance, IT major Wipro in its annual reported stated that in some cases, a clear action has been taken (warning or separation) and the rest of the cases have been resolved through counselling or other specific actions.

Similarly, FMCG major HUL said that inside offices, women employees are discouraged from working beyond 8.30 pm. Here, any instances of late working are detected by the attendance card reader and sent to the employee’s Line manager automatically.

In circumstances where late working becomes unavoidable, women employees are required to take a drop home from a company approved car vendor, escorted by a male colleague back home and inform the manager once they reach.

Companies are of the view that the rise in complaints being filed is due to awareness creation after the MeToo movement.

Going forward, companies also anticipate a rise in the number of women coming forward with complaints. However, unlike the past the complainant may not be shunned out as brand reuputation is at stake.

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First Published on Oct 11, 2019 01:51 pm
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