An organisation in Ahmedabad has launched a certification programme for companies to help in making the workplace safe for women employees. The ‘Sexual Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) certification’, launched by the Gujarat chapter of British Chevening Alumni India, aims at sensitising the companies and creating awareness among employees about sexual harassment at workplace.
Chevening is a global scholarship programme of the UK government. A safe work environment will attract more talent from among women, British Deputy High Commissioner to India, Alexander Evans, said while launching the certification programme in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. “For us in the UK, this is not a political debate but it is about talent. If you exclude women or make workplace unfavourable for women, you are basically reducing the ability to attract talent to the organisation. It is important for people to feel safe at the workplace,” he said.
“Sexual harassment, as the ingredient at a work place, makes it toxic, it makes it deeply unpleasant for people to be at the workplace. And particularly, because sometimes it is done in a private way in the form of bullying or harassment, it can puncture somebody’s confidence,” he further said.
Despite the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act coming into force on December 9, 2013, many companies were yet to implement it, said Ruzan Khambatta, a Chevening scholar from Gujarat, who is behind the idea of the certification programme. “This, despite the legal requirement that any workplace with more than 10 employees needs to implement the Act,” she said.
Quoting a joint report of the industry body FICCI and Ernst & Young (a multinational professional services firm), issued in November 2015, Khambatta said 36 per cent of Indian firms and 25 per cent among the multi-national companies (MNCs) are not in compliance with the Act.
A company with more than 10 employees can register for the SAFE certification, based on compliance of certain conditions laid down under the law, she said. “A SAFE committee comprising noted individuals from the society would audit the applications of companies, conduct interviews and surprise checks, and grant them the certification, subject to the fulfilment of certain criteria,” Khambatta said.
The certification programme has been launched in Gujarat and will be gradually taken across the country, she added.