Sexual Harassment in Healthcare: What law says
With the recent letter written by a female Forensic Resident to the Dean of GMCH, Nagpur accusing harassment by her HOD, it brings into light the critical issues of harassment of women at work placeHealthcare Sector in India, is one of the biggest employers of women. Be it nurses, doctors, technicians and even grade IV staff, indian healthcare boasts of being a major contributor to the...
Healthcare Sector in India, is one of the biggest employers of women. Be it nurses, doctors, technicians and even grade IV staff, indian healthcare boasts of being a major contributor to the economic and societal empowerment of women. And this is one sector, where a women can truly give a tough competition to men, whether it is the question of competency or working late hours.
Yet at the same time, given the scenario it becomes imperative that measures to be taken for the protection and welfare enhancement of the female staff. The female healthcare workers works long hours, does night shifts, interacts with all kinds of people in trying, sometimes heated circumstances. This makes them at a risk of facing harassment both from patients as well as internally from fellow co-workers.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 clearly lays down the legal requirements for all organisations be it healthcare or otherwise which are employing more than 10 staff. Its sad that not only healthcare organisations have not put the requisite mechanism at place, moreover, healthcare professionals are not even aware about it. Salient Features of the law are as follows:-
Every employer of a workplace ( including government institutions) shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the "lnternal Complaints Committee"
- This committee should be headed by a Presiding officer, a senior level woman employee or one nominated women employee and the quorum should have at least one half of the total population as women.
The committee should have not less than two Members from amongst employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge; and should have one member from amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
The Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall in each calendar year prepare, in such fonn and at such time as may be prescribed, an annual report and submit the same to the employer and the District Officer.
For organisations having less than 10 member staff, a local Complaints committee ( LCC) has to be set up at the District Magistrate level which shall look into such matters
- The act relying on the fact that prevention is better than cure, also lays down that all employees have to undergo sensitisation sessions once a year about prevention of harassment instances at work place including those who are members of the ICC.
The act clearly states the duties of employers ( including management of government organisations) which include the following:-
Provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace
- Display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting. the Internal Committee
- Organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions ofthe Act and orientation programmes for the members of the internal Committee in the manner as may be prescribed;
- Provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee , as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry;
- Assist in securing the attendance of respondent and witnesses before the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be;
- Make available such infornation to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, as it may require having regard to the complaint made
- Provide assistance to the woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force;
- Cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place;
- treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct.
- monitor the timely submission of report by the Internal Committee.
Failure to constitute the committee or following the necessary provisions of the act shall be punishable with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees for the first time. If employer is repeatedly convicted for the second time under the act, this may lead to twice the fine or higher if defined by law and even cancellation, of the licence or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration, as the case may be, by the Government or local authority required for carrying on business or activity.
As indicated by the law, organisations should strive not just to address the issues of harassment against women, but create an environment that such instances do not happen in the first place.
You can get a copy of the act of the link below:-
Meghna A Singhania is the founder and Editor-in-Chief at Medical Dialogues. An Economics graduate from Delhi University and a post graduate from London School of Economics and Political Science, her key research interest lies in health economics, and policy making in health and medical sector in the country.She is a member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Contact no. 011-43720751