03 Jun Nipping sexual harassment
It won’t be long before the story of iGate‘s ousted CEO Phaneesh Murthy becomes a case study for organisations trying to avert similar incidents. The Strategist spoke to the HR heads at some of the most preferred employers in India to understand what they are doing to grapple with the issue
A confidential hotline service is a must have
Director HR, Vodafone India
To provide enriching careers and long-term growth opportunities to employees in a fair and collaborative work environment, it is important to ensure that everyone is able to render their services without fear of any prejudice, gender bias or sexual harassment. At Vodafone, we have many policies that safeguard the interests of employees. One such practice is the focus on creating a respectful workplace and prevention of sexual harassment.
Our sexual harassment policy is in line with the Vishakha Committee guidelines and aims to ensure the following: (i) the protection of all employees (male and female) from sexual harassment at the workplace, (ii) an awareness of the internal policies and the relevant Indian laws and (iii) in the event of such occurrence, the recourse mechanism to the concerned individual by way of resolution, settlement or prosecution of the acts of sexual harassment. The policy as well as the list of the committee members is displayed on the company’s intranet portal for all employees to view and the same is also a part of the employee induction manual for every new joinee.
Our primary objective is prevention and this is addressed through inclusive leadership workshops for the managerial population and a continuous communication to build awareness and sensitivity. In case of a complaint, we have a dedicated centralised email id to register it. Also, there’s a 24X7 confidential hotline service. Complainants are also encouraged to seek redressal with the concerned HR teams, committee members or the business heads.
A comprehensive tiered resolution mechanism has been put in place mirroring the organisation structure to address the above concerns. We have ‘circle and corporate complaints’ committees headed by a senior lady manager and comprise 60 per cent women. To further address escalations from the circle committees, we have a steering committee comprising senior leadership of the organisation. Finally, there is executive management team for overall governance and decision-making, comprising of the chief financial officer, HR director and general counsel. Every complaint is addressed on an urgent basis and is kept confidential. Every investigation is also appropriately documented and stored. There is a consequence matrix developed for severity of the complaint, according to which appropriate action is taken.
Stress on professional behavior at all times
AVP & Head-employee relations, Infosys
AT Infosys, we endeavour to create a diverse and inclusive environment free from any harassment and hostility. A strong framework has been designed and articulated to handle sexual harassment issues reported at the work place. Every reported complaint is investigated by an Internal Complaints Committee as per a well defined process. All complaints are treated confidentially and investigated thoroughly. All parties are provided an equal opportunity to present their facts. Any material evidence, if available, is taken into consideration.
Ensuring a well defined policy and making available channels to employees to raise concerns at any time allows an organisation to create a diverse and inclusive environment. We have various programmes such as classroom sessions, e-learning programmes, poster campaigns and mailers stressing the importance of professional behaviour at the work place at all times.
Take appropriate action without delay
COO, Administration, Maruti Suzuki
The main purpose of Maruti Suzuki’s anti-sexual harassment policy is to provide a safe and conducive work environment to employees and also preserve and enforce the right of gender equality. This includes: (a) physical contact and advances; (b) demand or request for sexual favours; (c) indecent remarks; (d) showing pornography; (e) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
We have formed a complaints committee where an employee can submit her/his complaint to the member. The committee is as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and mainly comprises women. The five member committee is headed by a chairperson (a woman). Once a complainant approaches the committee member(s), the chairperson along with the committee members decide on the appropriate action to be taken. This is followed by an enquiry, hearing and final decision-making. The committee has a right to take a disciplinary action against the person found guilty. Our system assures confidentiality and protects the complainant. It also has a defined time-lines to ensure quick redressal. For the new recruits, the policy is explained and details are shared during the induction programme. The policy is also documented as part of the employee manual.
Relationships at the company are in the personal space of employees unless they impinge on productivity or work environment. At Maruti Suzuki there have been instances where employees have known each other and got married. We may offer a rotation option to either or both employees if they are in related areas. This guiding principle has worked well for us so far.
Have a zero-tolerance attitude towards harassment
Director, Human Resources, NTPC Limited
Empowerment of employees, especially of female employees, remains the cornerstone of the HR policy of NTPC. A core component of this remains the creation of a safe working environment. Any complaint of sexual harassment or misdemeanor is dealt swiftly. NTPC has a zero tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment at workplace and makes all efforts to redress any complaint.
Women are not encouraged to stay back beyond office hours and are provided an official vehicle whenever required to work late.
In compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan (1997), NTPC was one of the first PSUs in India to set up a Sexual Harassment Committee in 1998. It defines the meaning of ‘sexual harassment’ in Conduct, Discipline and Appeal Rule of NTPC (Rule 4A). We are aware of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 and will implement the same.
Put security provisions for women engaged in outbound roles
Senior General Manager & Head of HR, ICICI Bank
The workforce of ICICI Bank comprises of around 30 per cent women employees. As an organisation committed to workplace and personal safety, we have over the years, taken several proactive measures to provide a safe and conducive work environment to our staff. This is in line with our core philosophy of “Saath Aapka” which we have articulated and committed to our employees.
ICICI Bank has robust policies to ensure that a woman employee does not feel inhibited or threatened in anyway. We have a zero tolerance policy towards usage of unprofessional or abusive language by any employee. There’s a formal process for dealing with complaints on harassment or discrimination. We have also broken away from certain stereotypes in jobs, such as sales and marketing, which are traditionally offered to men in the industry.
While the number of women joining the workforce has increased over the years, there are certain societal biases that do creep into the organisation as our employees are a microcosm of the larger society. Wehave sufficient checks and controls in the performance evaluation process to eliminate such biases against women.
The bank has devised a security protocol for all women employees who are engaged in outbound roles. The bank has a provision for customer visit registration at Security@icare for women for them to feel safe while on customer visits. An identified set of managers across locations are equipped to reach out to women colleagues in case of any distress. Self defense training for women employees are conducted at regular intervals. If a female employee is required to work late or come to office early, the bank arranges for pick up and drop facility and ensures that she is accompanied by a male colleague.