What is Anti- Sexual Harassment Audit/PoSH Audit?
PoSH Audit or an Anti-Sexual Harassment Audit can be defined as a an audit done to review, evaluate and enhance the feasibility of implementation of sexual harassment law especially to check the compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It must be noted that Anti-Sexual harassment audit is not limited to protecting the interests of women only but also to introduce a gender neutral policy.
Reasons for POSH Audit
According to The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, one of the responsibilities of an employer is as follows:
To display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, penal consequences of sexual harassments and the order constituting the Internal Committee.
Variations and the timing of PoSH Audit
The scale of the audit and the resources needed to be deployed for undertaking it is dependent on the size of the organisation and different kinds of workplace environments depending on the kind of industry and the business. Usually, an audit is undertaken at the end of a specific period to check how the responsibilities have been implemented. Keeping in mind that the Act is relatively new and the organisations are not aware of the pitfalls and how to implements the mandate of the Act in the best possible manner, an audit can be undertaken by the organisation at the beginning before the period of compliance begins in order to find out the needs of the business.
Following are some of the situations where different approach will be adopted:
- A company having multiple offices across India having no interaction with the outsiders
- A company which has several customer interaction centres with a few corporate offices but with no third party dealing
- A theatre company organising plays at multiple locations across India
- A chain of food outlets
- A big car manufacturing unit
- A company building infrastructure projects
- A cinema chain having number of multiplexes, head office and regional offices
It must be noted that PoSH audit or Anti-sexual harassment audit can be done both by the internal teams possessing the necessary skill set and also by the external experts.
Skill-set required for PoSH Audit or Anti-sexual harassment audit
The law on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 does not prescribe any special person who can conduct anti-sexual harassment audits. The organisations can engage any person having relevant experience and skill-set depending on the nature of activities undertaken by the organisation. Some of the skills that a prospective auditor should be adept in are as follows:
- Familiarity and experience in working on sexual harassment cases and women issues
- Organisational development and group behaviour
- Internal training department
- Human relations
- Corporate communications
- Legal and compliance related aspects
The audit can be conducted by the internal officers of the company or by externally appointed members who have specifically engaged for this purpose. It is highly likely that the auditor may not be able monitor every compliance action taken by the company. In such cases, the auditor must put in place certain tight processes which will help in proper compliance.
Variables associated with the conducting an Audit
The variables for conducting a PoSH audit depends on a number of variables such as the nature of the organisation as in its functions and its business, the strength of the employees and management and their location and the auditor’s own expertise and experience.
- Apart from the responsibilities that have been provided under section 19 of the Act, there are several other variables which are necessary to be taken into account during the audit proceedings
- The Act does not mention about the aspect of confidentiality. But still, this needs to be complied with.
Some of the aspects relating to the functioning of Internal Complaints Committee also need to be complied with which do not find mention under the Act.
Methodology and the Procedure of PoSH Audit
- On-site visits: The auditor must make surprise on-site visits in order to properly understand the actual working environment. This helps the auditor in gauging the general working environment, vulnerabilities of the employees against sexual harassment, witnessing delivery of sensitization and training programs. Another important thing to be observant about whether notices have been put at conspicuous place according to the provisions of the Act. These on-site audits will finally determine how the entire PoSH Audit exercise will actually shape up.
- Surveying Company’s employees: Under the audit, the employees must be provided with questionnaires about whether the organisation has informed about them about the protection in case they face sexual harassment at work, whether the employees know whom to complain etc. These questions reflect the effectiveness of the organisational trainings and communication of the anti-sexual harassment policy. The answers to these questionnaires are kept secret so that the employees can freely speak their opinion.
- Review existing mechanisms to check their effectiveness: Another important part of an Anti-Sexual Harassment Audit is to review the policies, training programmes and all the written communications to order to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programme.
- Consultation with the management: In the preparation of the audit, the auditor must understand the organisational philosophy of the business organisation. This philosophy can be understood from the opinions of the management. For this, the auditor needs to take personal and joint interviews of the management and understand their approach and corroborate the same with the training programmes and with the answers obtained from the surveys. Any divergence which exists between the management’s opinion and the opinion of the employees exposes the gaps in the communication philosophy.
The existence of divergence in the opinions is an indicator that a well thought out philosophy has not been devised at the management level.
- Asking questions to the management and ICC: Another segment of PoSH audit is asking the questions to the ICC member and the management related to their approach in conducting of proceedings and the basis of decision making process. Here the ICC members are questioned on their decision making and whether they follow the principles of natural justice or not. Depending on the auditor’s approach, auditor can either be satisfied with the representations made by the management or can adopt another way whereby he himself verifies the management’s claims by going through the documents. An important part of asking questions is how do they maintain confidentiality of the representations made before them.
- Thorough inspection of records maintained by the business entity: Inspection of the records such as minutes of meetings are a good indicator of indentifying whether all the legal formalities are being followed in the ICC meetings such as analysing the minutes of meetings to find out whether quorum was maintained or not or whether systematic records have been maintained by the ICC in the previous committee meetings.
- Analysing practices in the similar businesses and past experiences: Any PoSH audit must always make reference to the practices followed in the similar or same types of industries and also the auditor’s past experiences which will help in incorporating the best practices to undertake the audit. For example: An online sensitization is supposed to done for a car manufacturing factory where right from labourers to the factory managers and senior management is involved. This would entail interaction with a number of labourers using digital mediums. But, there is a possibility that the ground workers may not be having smart phones and other digital devices through which they can interact and attend the sensitization programme.
In such a scenario, if the professional has had past experiences in dealing with such situations in similar environment, then he would be in a better position and certainly come up with effective solutions so that the task at hand can be executed without much hassle.
It is very important on the part of auditor to mention the methodology adopted by for every responsibility area before submitting the report.
Another important thing that an auditor must mention is the disclaimers and the conditionalities on the basis of which he has arrived at his findings. For example, the auditor must mention that the he has relied on the communications made by the Key managerial employees or he has assumed that every communication provided by the business organisation to him is the actual communication made by the organisation to its employees or the policy that the business organisation has shared with the auditor is the actual policy that is in force in the organisation and also has been notified to their employees.
Components of the Audit Report
Once the audit has been completed, the auditor must submit an audit report explaining every aspect investigated, the variables, the methodology adopted by the auditor and also the findings of the auditor. The report must conclude with recommendations given based on the gaps found by the auditor in the existing PoSH mechanism of the business organisation.
- Brief description of organisation and auditor’s responsibility
This part of the audit report should give a brief description of the operations undertaken by the business organisation along with the responsibility that has been assigned to the auditor.
- Detailed description of work scenarios
This part of the audit report is a detailed description of the kind of organisational activities and different work scenarios and the nature of interactions taking place among the employees where the employees not only collaborate among themselves but also with the outsiders. This helps to zero in those work scenarios where there exist maximum vulnerabilities so that an even dedicated approach to secure those areas ultimately making the anti-sexual harassment mechanism even more effective.
- Listing of the activities mandated by the Act
This part of the report must list down the mandatory responsibilities mentioned under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- Findings of the Audit
- Along with the variables, the auditor should always mention the methodology adopted in for arriving at the findings.
- The auditor must mention the variables that have been considered for evaluating the responsibilities and whether they have been discharged or not.
- This part of the report must discuss in detail each of the responsibilities mentioned in the previous part.
- Followed by the methodology, the auditor needs to provide the analysis of the data gathered from the questionnaires provided to the employees and the management.
- Followed by this, the auditor must mention his findings
The findings must be provided in a summary format before discussing the findings in great detail.
- Suggested solutions
Having mentioned the findings of the report, the next task for the auditor is to list down the actions points or suggest solutions that should be undertaken by the organisation. These solutions will help the organisation in plugging existing gaps in the existing mechanism and to solve the disputes revealed in the audit.
Benefits of Posh Audit/ Anti-Sexual Harassment Audit
- Absolute compliance: Once Enterslice conclude your PoSH audit, we provide you with recommendations to improve your existing PoSH Compliance systems and ensure that your business is absolutely complaint according to all the anti-sexual harassment laws.
- Protection from unnecessary penalties: Our robust PoSH compliance mechanism will help you plug all the gaps and prevent the business and the management getting penalized.
- Instils deeper faith in the administration: A fully PoSH Compliant business instils a sense of faith among the employees that they work in a safe working environment.
- Enhances Brand image: An organisation that is has undergone audit and found to be fully compliant will help the business in improving its brand image and instils confidence among the investors that their investments are made in a legally complaint business.
Enterslice can give you overall advisory and assistance in Conducting PoSH Audit and filing of the necessary compliances for your organisation as we are a team of highly skilled & dedicated professionals. We specialize in providing legal consultancy services.