Addressing Sexual Harassment In Diverse Indian Workplaces

Antony Alex, founder and CEO of Rainmaker, believes that the language used at work, welcoming under-represented or marginalised communities, providing equitable opportunities based on merit and creating a zero-tolerance policy for violations can all contribute to building an inclusive and safe workplace


In the modern workplace, fostering a culture of respect and safety is paramount and preventing sexual harassment is a critical component of this effort. Organisations in India are taking innovative approaches to educate their employees and management on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Law. Antony Alex, founder and CEO of Rainmaker, believes that beyond legal compliance, these initiatives aim to bring about a broader change in workplace culture, emphasising respect, compliance and inclusivity. 

What innovative training solutions can organisations adopt to educate employees and management on the prevention of sexual harassment and how have they contributed to fostering a safer workplace?  

One cannot eliminate the menace of sexual harassment at the workplace by simply educating the workforce on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Law, rather an overall change in mindset is required. This change can only be brought about by a change in culture that focuses on respectful behavior towards colleagues by sensitising managers on appropriate behavior towards their team, understanding, respecting and complying with the law of the land as well as an organisation's internal code of conduct. In general, the focus has to be on creating an environment that values a culture of compliance.  

Organisations need to create innovative training solutions that deliver self-learning content in a dramatised format on an interactive platform. We call this experience edu-tainment, as it entertains the learner while educating them. This experience ensures that the learning is retained in the mind of the learner. After all, don't we all remember and retain stories that we have heard in our childhood?

What are the common challenges organisations face in ensuring compliance with sexual harassment prevention regulations and how can leaders address these challenges? 

The PoSH Law is clear about the compliance requirements. However, it is not all laid out in black and white or in one place. Also, case laws and judicial decisions require organisations to be constantly updated by experts, so as to stay on the right side of the law. The other aspect is the Internal Committee (IC), which today has a crucial role to play in ensuring that justice is delivered in all matters that come before it. A poorly trained IC can cause tremendous damage to the organisation's credibility, both internally and externally.   Having members with appropriate qualifications, credibility and most importantly, the right training and skills is critical to ensure compliance with the PoSH Law. 

My advice to CEOs/CHROs is to pay careful attention to compliance with the PoSH Law and get the right experts to guide you. 

What steps can be taken to ensure that training is accessible and inclusive for all employees, including those with disabilities or diverse backgrounds?

It is important to factor in your teams’ and colleagues’ diverse needs when choosing a training method, no matter what the training is for. Accessibility is key, whether the training is online or in person. For physical sessions, accessibility and technology geared for people with disabilities must be provided to ensure seamless attendance and absorption. For online modules, ensure the platform is accessible, offering features like screen readers and closed captioning. Use simple, concise language and consider using regional languages, if required. 

Sign language interpreters and subtitles are helpful for deaf colleagues, as is clear communication for those with hearing impairments, and accessible materials for individuals with vision impairments. Consider an activity-based approach for those with cognitive disabilities, and ensure you are constantly asking for feedback during and after the sessions.

How do organisations navigate cultural nuances and sensitivities when addressing issues related to sexual harassment in a diverse Indian workplace?  

It all begins with the culture cultivated within the organisation. PoSH is only one of the aspects that need to be considered when building an inclusive workplace. Training and sensitisation of top management and all teams is imperative. Acknowledging and being respectful of people from different cultures and backgrounds will help colleagues feel included and seen. The language used at work, welcoming under-represented or marginalised communities, providing equitable opportunities based on merit and creating a zero-tolerance policy for violations can all contribute to building an inclusive and safe workplace.  

How can emerging technologies, such as AI and data analytics, be leveraged to improve workplace safety and compliance efforts in India?

AI and data analytics are excellent tools that can help make workplaces in India safe and compliant. Data tools can help gather information and employee feedback, collate incident reports and help spot early signs of sexual harassment cases. AI-driven chatbots also provide a safe and anonymous way for complainants to share their stories and connect them with others who have lived through similar situations. Automation tools can help HR teams streamline documentation, tracking progress and create case reports. Auditing can be made simpler and quicker using AI tools, to ensure fast-tracked outcomes. It is important to balance the use of technology with human intervention, especially in sensitive cases of sexual harassment to make colleagues feel like they are being seen and heard and that swift action is being taken.


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