Sexual harassment data begins to come out of Indian companies’ closets
New Delhi: Falling in line after repeated diktats from the government and regulators, most of the top listed companies have begun making public some basic data of sexual harassment at the workplace and the disclosed numbers show a disturbing uptick.
At the same time, most of these companies assert that a large number of such complaints were effectively resolved, including through ‘conciliation’ or with ‘required disciplinary action’, and the pendency was very low to nil at the end of last fiscal.
Under the regulations framed by Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India), all listed companies need to disclose the total number of complaints relating to sexual harassment and the pendency data at the end of a financial year in their annual reports.
Besides, the ministry of women and child development also requires the companies to give details about such cases under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The ministry recently also launched an online portal to enable women employees of the central government to file complaints relating to sexual harassment at workplace while the Union minister Maneka Gandhi said its ambit would be widened going forward to include the private sector as well.
While the proposed measure is expected to further improve the reporting of such cases, the disclosures made in the annual reports by the top listed blue-chips in India, forming part of the benchmark Sensex, show that the number of reported complaints rose at most companies. The number of reported complaints are mostly higher at IT companies, as compared to the firms from other sectors.
IT blue-chip Infosys said it has institutionalised the anti sexual harassment initiative framework, through which it addresses complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. “Our global policy assures discretion and guarantees non-retaliation to complainants. We follow a gender neutral approach in handling complaints of sexual harassment and we are compliant with the law of the land wherever we operate.
“We have also constituted an internal committee in all locations across India to consider and address sexual harassment complaints in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” Infosys said.
Disclosing details of the complaints received under this law, Infosys said the total number of cases filed in the fiscal 2016-17 was 88 (up from 62 in the previous year). While five cases were disposed of by conciliation (as against one in previous fiscal), 72 were disposed of by disciplinary actions (up from 61). Infosys further said 11 cases evaluated by the internal committee were reported in March 2017 and the investigation process was underway as on 31 March.
Wipro also said it has a policy and framework for employees to report sexual harassment cases at workplace and our process ensures complete anonymity and confidentiality of information. “Adequate workshops and awareness programme against sexual harassment are conducted across the organisation,” the company said while disclosing that a total of 116 complaints of sexual harassment were raised in the calendar year 2016, of which 102 cases were disposed of and appropriate actions were taken in all cases within the statutory timelines.
“This includes all cases reported to the system, even if unsubstantiated. In some cases, a clear action has been taken (warning or separation) and the rest have either not progressed due to lack of information or resolved through counselling,” Wipro said. For the year 2015, Wipro had disclosed a total of 111 complaints that were raised, of which 107 were “disposed and appropriate actions were taken in all cases within the statutory timelines”.
TCS has disclosed 65 complaints of sexual harassment for the year 2016-17, of which four were pending at the end of the fiscal. During the previous fiscal 2015-16, TCS had received 34 complaints of sexual harassment out of which 33 were resolved with appropriate action taken and one remained pending at fiscal-end where internal review was in process.
Kotak Mahindra Bank said any complaint pertaining to sexual harassment is diligently reviewed and investigated and treated with great sensitivity at the company. It disclosed having received total 19 complaints during 2016-17, out of which 12 were disposed of and enquiries were in progress in the pending seven cases at the close of the year.
The bank, which said it works with a belief on zero tolerance towards sexual harassment at workforce, had in 2015-16 received total eight complaints, out of which four were disposed and enquiries were in progress at year-end in the remaining four.
State-run SBI also said it maintains a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment at workplace and has put in place an appropriate mechanism for prevention as well as redressal of complaints. It also said that the affirmative action as directed by GoI is taken care of during the recruitment as well as promotion process.
“Out of 21 cases of sexual harassment reported during the year, 15 have been disposed of,” SBI said. During 2015-16, 27 complaints of sexual harassment of women were filed, of which 23 cases were disposed off during the same period.
Housing finance major HDFC Ltd said it has a policy on prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace and on a regular basis it continues to sensitise all employees on prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace through workshops, group meetings and awareness programmes. During 2016-17, no complaints were received by the internal committee, while the same was the case for the previous fiscal.
Bajaj Auto Ltd also said the company has a policy on prevention of sexual harassment at workplace, pursuant to the 2013 legislation and there was no case reported during the year under review under the said policy. For the previous fiscal also, it had said there was no case reported.
Similar was the case for Hero MotoCorp Ltd.
Reliance Industries Ltd too said no such complaint were reported during the year.
Among other companies, ITC Ltd said no complaints were received during 2016-17. During the previous fiscal, seven complaints of sexual harassment were received, of which five were investigated and resolved and two were in the process of being redressed at the year-end. “Maintaining an open door for reportees, ITC encourages employees to report any harassment concerns and is responsive to complaints about harassment or any other unwelcome and offensive conduct,” ITC said.
Tata Steel Ltd said the company received 26 complaints during 2016-17, of which 19 were resolved by taking appropriate actions and the remaining seven were under investigation. During 2015-16, it had received 18 complaints out of which 14 were resolved and the remaining four were under investigation at end of that year.
Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd disclosed that four complaints with allegations of sexual harassment were filed, out of which three were disposed of as per the policy during 2016-17 and one was pending at the year-end. In the previous fiscal also, four complaints were filed, all of which were disposed of by end of the year.
Bharti Airtel Ltd said five cases were reported and investigated in 2016-17. In three of these cases, the allegations were substantiated and the accused personnel were separated from their services.
Lupin Ltd said it did not receive any complaint of sexual harassment during 2016-17 while the Office of the Ombudsperson also did not receive any major complaints. However, 14 minor complaints were examined by the investigating committees/officers, appointed by the Ombudsperson. “All complaints were responded to within the stipulated time frame and necessary actions taken against those found guilty,” it added. In 2015-16, Lupin had disclosed receiving one complaint, which was investigated in detail by the Internal Complaints Committee. The panel concluded that the allegations were not proved based on the extensive proceedings and evidence on record.
Pharma major Cipla Ltd said a total of three cases were reported during 2016-17, and all cases have been satisfactorily addressed and appropriate action taken. In the previous fiscal, 14 cases were reported of which only two were under investigation at the year-end and subsequently, all the cases were satisfactorily addressed and appropriate action was taken.