For safer workplaces

‘Industry representatives were against enhanced disclosures under the Companies Act.’

This week, there has been an interesting exchange of opinions between finance and corporate affairs minister Arun Jaitley and his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi — India’s minister for woman and child development.

Ms Gandhi had a simple request from Mr Jaitley’s department — make it mandatory for firms in India to reveal whether they have put in place an Internal Complaints Committee which will probe sexual harassment complaints from women employees. In easier terms, she wants the companies to go public saying yes, we have a cell and sure, we have a provision to investigate problems of such a nature.

Mr Jaitley however, has rejected the request saying “industry representatives were against enhanced disclosures under the Companies Act, 2013 and adding to these may not be desirable”. The Companies Act makes it mandatory for firms to reveal a host of details — assets, liabilities, top salaries, etc. But Ms Gandhi is just asking for a promise. A promise from companies that they do have a cell in place and a mandatory, public record will only help in collecting data. ‘

We check with the experts on their stand:

Maneka Gandhi is right in asking companies to reveal whether they have an internal complaints committee against sexual harassment, or not. With women taking on much more important positions, there is a greater, more important need for such sexual harassment cells. If companies are required to disclose this information under the Companies Act, 2013, they will be required by law to have such a committee. I’m part of Sparsh, the internal complaints committee against sexual harassment for EFLU and I know that there are a lot of such cases. Also, if a company does disclose information about such a committee, and that their employees’ grievances are addressed, people will only be more proud about them.

—Rachna Reddy, Lawyer and Standing Counsel for Income Tax

Every company has a sexual harassment cell, which is an internal complaints committee. This comes under the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) Act. And that is exclusive of the Companies Act. Bringing that under the Companies Act, will bring in a level of compliance. But, there is great merit in this. While the larger corporations already have cells in place, this will help bring compliance in smaller, mid-level companies. Because, the use of this cell is only when there’s need, that is, when there’s a problem, there are no preventive measures that take place. And that shouldn’t be the case.”

— Purnima Kamble, partner at the law firm Fox Mandal and Associates

It’s extremely important to have a cell in place that looks after cases. This will also encourage more and more women to work and be a part of the corporate industry. It will create a safer working environment for women. But you don’t have to plug it to the Companies Act. There are so many labour laws that are not a part of the Companies Act. It doesn’t have to be disclosed completely to the public as during induction programmes for staff, the policies are anyway made clear to the employees.

—Vanita Datla, Chairperson of CII

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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