The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is drafted to prevent sexual harassment at the ‘workplace’. This term has a specific definition under the Act, and covers certain situation or working settings within its ambit. Under the law, instances of harassment outside the “workplace” are not covered under the act. For example, the Supreme Court’s policy clarifies that as per the act, it applies to incidents occurring on the court premises.

‘Workplace’ includes the premises of all government and private entities which operate on a commercial basis (that is, they are involved in any economic activity) or work in education, entertainment, vocational services, sports facilities (such as stadiums, sports institutes and sports complexes), health services, hospitals and nursing homes. Societies, trusts and non-governmental organizations, where people work on a voluntary basis are also included. With respect to domestic workers, even a house is considered as a workplace.

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Further, any place visited by an employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such journey. For example, an official meeting or conference organised in a hotel or an offsite office programme will be considered as workplace under the law.

However, situations may get blurry if the nature of the business needs constant meeting outside offices, often in hotel rooms or in cafes or in pubs and lounges. For example, a freelance consultant who meets startup founders in their houses (which also double as their office). Will the law apply in such situations? This might be a difficult situation to implement the law, even though technically these would constitute workplace under the law. Read this article on Economic Times to understand the complexities of handling sexual harassment in fluid workplaces.

How do organisations who do not have traditional work environments can handle incidents of sexual harassment? They may clearly elaborate what constitutes a workplace under their sexual harassment prevention policies – they are free to expand the ambit of the definition under the act.

Implementing strict sexual harassment policies and meeting legal compliances can be difficult in non-traditional workplaces. Click here to know more about a course that can help you implement the law in a super-fast way throughout your organization or you can call Pallavi at +91 9582630056  for a free consultation regarding implementing sexual harassment policies and other related compliance in non-traditional workplaces or situations.

Increasing regulation of workplace environment is opening up new career opportunities for professionals (lawyers, company secretaries, chartered accountants) or those working in HR, training, compliance and legal teams, whose help is required not only to comply with sexual harassment laws but also in creating conducive workplace environments which are gender-neutral and free from discrimination and harassment.  There is significant scope to build an independent employment and HR advisory practice for consultants. 


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