Reasons For Low POSH Compliance- India

April 4, 2023
Sexual Harassment Workplace

By Anuradha Gandhi and Rachita Thakur

Sexual harassment of women at workplace is that form of gender discrimination at workplace that is still not a thing of past. Gender inequality in corporate sector in India persists at an astonishing rate yet is unnoticed by many. While talking about gender discrimination, it is important to substantiate facts with numbers that make difference! India ranked 143rd out of 153 countries in World Economic Forum’s, the Gender Gap Report of 2022.[1] Merely knowing that gender gaps exist is not enough, understanding the causes, possible outcomes and consequences therein and strategizing a methodology to reverse this gap is the need of the hour.

A country’s economic growth is interdependent on social development of people which in turn is co-related with equal representation of women at positions of authority in organizations, especially in a country like India. India has been keenly eyeing on becoming the 5 trillion economy by 2025. However, with the existing gender gaps and gender discrimination in the form of sexual harassment of women at workplace, across all dimensions of professions, certainly stand as hindrance in achieving this distant dream. Even after some commendable steps and measures taken to prevent and prohibit sexual harassment of women at workplace, corporates in India still report disparaging low women representation at high positions with low POSH compliance results.

Representation of Women in Boardrooms

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, (the POSH Act) was enacted in the year 2013, several years after Vishaka Guidelines of the Apex Court, mandatorily provides that every organization must comply with the provisions of the Act. Companies employing more than 10 employees are required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee.

Section 25 of the POSH Act empowers the appropriate government, on being satisfied, to call upon the employer to furnish in writing such information relating to sexual harassment as it may require. Further, Section 26 prescribes penalty for non-compliance with the provisions of the POSH Act. Any contravention with the provisions of the POSH Act shall be punishable with fine which may extend to INR 50,000.

In addition to the POSH Act, Section 149 of the Companies Act, 2013 read with Rule 17 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 provides that the top 500 listed companies to have at least one independent woman in the Board of Directors of the Company.

Boardrooms certainly have innate power to change the future of a company and further act as a catalyst in the economic growth of a country. However, lack of gender diversity in board rooms is a major concern in India which has come under increased scrutiny over the years. The talk first started in 2013 with the revision in the Companies Act, 2013 that lead to a significant change in the statistics that throw light on rapid progress in women representation on Boards from 6% in 2013 to 13% in 2017. However, post-2017 the said progress increased at a slower pace at 18% in 2022.[2] Women now account for 17.6 per cent of directorships of Nifty-500 companies.

What can be inferred here from the aforementioned statistics is that, the aim of increasing gender diversity and women representation in dominant positions in a company must also be in co-relation with safe and healthy work environment for women at workplaces.

What can the possible reasons for the low representation of women on Boards?


low representation women boards
Need for Corporates to comply with the POSH Act

One of the major reasons for low participation of women in workforce vis-à-vis low representation of women in higher positions can be attributed to persistent workplace sexual harassment faced by women across all industries and professions.

It is mandatory for all listed companies to adopt a POSH Policy, constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, and provide sensitisation trainings to employees and members of the Internal Complaints Committee. Everything to ensure that women have access to healthy environment free from sexual harassment. The companies, further, have to disclose the data related to POSH complaints received by the ICC, number of complaints disposed off and pending complaints in their annual reports.

The push for diversity in boardrooms will become a reality when POSH Compliance becomes a norm rather than tokenism.

Low POSH Complaints and Low POSH Compliance compliance: A major concern

Many companies take pride in reporting ‘zero posh complaints’ in their annual reports citing workplace environments free from sexual harassment. However, on the contrary, low complaints either mean that companies have commendable work cultures or they are not doing enough work to spread awareness about the law at all.

Increase in number of posh complaints mean increase in awareness about POSH complaint mechanism and redressal system. This concern resulted when a large number of BSE companies (210) declared zero complaints in their annual reports. It means that the company has an effective complaint redressal system in place to deal with the instances of sexual harassment reported by employees at Work.

A classic example that can be taken is Wipro. During the initial years of implementing POSH Act, Wipro registered more than 1000 complaints of sexual harassment. With effective and efficient redressal mechanism altogether with training and sensitization of employees the numbers gradually decreased to around 100 complaints in the year 2016-17.


Complying with the PoSH Act in letter and spirit is what companies should adhere to in order to build a healthy and work environment for the better.

[1] World Economic Forum, the Gender Gap Report, 2022
[2] Diversity in Boardroom, Progress and the way forward, EY 2022
[3] Chartered Secretary, The Journal for Governance Professionals, Embrace Equity: Leading Change Together, Vol 53, March 2023

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