Workplace Safety for Women

In developing countries, both men and women are working in the same surroundings, at the same time, and coordinating well with each other. Still, there are inequalities of income and safety at the workplace. Most of the women do not feel safe at their workplace. A large number of them have to leave their jobs because of the harassment they face at their offices. It’s not only women who face harassment, but many times men also get trapped in the circle of continuous disturbance and termination. 

Workplace safety for women has gained importance from the last few years, thanks to women who raised their voices against sexual or mental harassment they had to face at the place of work. Workplace harassment can take various forms, such as sexual harassment, mental harassment, gender discrimination, unwanted or offensive comments on female co-workers, unpleasant and undesirable conduct by colleagues or employers and the list goes on. You can read more about harassment, reasons for harassment with women at the workplace, why women’s safety is important at the workplace, laws that govern women’s safety at the workplace, and ways to ensure women’s safety at the workplace in this blog.

What is harassment?

Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct, which tends to threaten or annoy a person and at times, render the person helpless to safeguard themselves. 

Harassment can take various forms: 

  1. Sexual harassment
  2. Mental harassment
  3. Visual harassment
  4. Verbal harassment, and so on.

Why do women feel unsafe at the place of work?

Many women in the unorganized sector feel extremely uncomfortable due to the unsafe job climate. Three industries that are not safe for women in this regard are infrastructure, manufacturing industry, and domestic help. This is because people engaged in these jobs are not conscious of the laws that safeguard women.

Nearly 25% of the working women are the only earning members of their families, rendering them further vulnerable to harassment, which takes the form of sexual favours in return for cash rewards. 

Why is women’s safety at the workplace important?

Women’s safety at the workplace is most important because:

  1. It helps them to carry out their work efficiently. What a woman wants is a safe place to work without any unwelcome distractions. 
  1. It helps women to be calmer. Workplace harassment is traumatizing, leads girls and women to suffer from depression and degrading mental health.

For the organization, if a woman is sexually harassed by co-workers or employers, then it may reduce productivity and increase absenteeism of the respective employee. The health and wellbeing of the employee get severely affected. It is of utmost importance to treat both female and male employees equally. Many women have raised their voices against the unjust conduct towards them, which has led to the introduction of various laws and provisions in this aspect.

What are the laws to safeguard women in their workplace?

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 seeks to protect women from sexual harassment in offices or workplaces. It aims to prevent, strictly prohibit harassment at the workplace and allow redressal to women who feel unsafe in offices or places of work. 

Vishakha Guidelines, 1997 made it compulsory for employers to ensure a safe work environment for female employees. 

After the advent of the MeToo Movement, 2017, many women from the entertainment and media industry have come up with their stories of harassment at the workplace. 

An important point to consider here is that the laws and legislations appear only on paper, and a large number of women in the informal sector are still facing harassment, which has become normal for many of them. Even if they want to raise their voice against this, poverty and economic vulnerability force them to endure. If they complain to the employer, they may face more pain and discrimination as the employer may file theft charges against them. 

What are the measures to ensure the safety of women at the workplace?

Some measures that can be used to safeguard women at their workplace are: 

1. Stringent legislations

There should be stricter enforcement of laws and regulations related to women’s safety in organizations. Every company and factory that employs women should implement a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. Even the laws that are implemented nationwide should be executed without any discrimination. 

2. Greater awareness

Increased awareness among male employers and employees so that they are able to support their female co-workers instead of threatening them for sexual favours. Women should also be made conscious of their rights regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. HR should ensure that the employees in the company are well aware of their rights and duties.

3. Self-defense training

Women should be imparted self-defence training so that they are able to protect themselves from rape and harassment. Self-defence programs should be organized by various institutions, and more and more women should be a part of these programs. 

4. A safe and healthy job climate

The job environment should be made safe and healthy for all the employees. This will increase employee participation and productivity and reduce employee absenteeism and turnover. This way, women will also be able to give their careers a smooth ride and will not be forced to leave their jobs. 

5. Platform to express concerns

Every woman should be provided with a platform to raise their concerns. Setting up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to resolve sexual harassment issues in the organizations and implement policies relating to women’s safety at the workplace. Social media is emerging as a trusted platform where women can voice their opinion and share their stories and experiences. But not every woman has access to social media, neither their workplace has an established committee for redressal. 

6. Encourage vocational training among women

Every woman should be provided vocational training, and an entrepreneurial skill must be imbibed in them so that they become independent, and it will reduce gender discrimination.  

7. Provide equipment for the safety of women

The company or organization should have a provision to come up with equipment such as pepper spray that will ensure safety for women employees. Moreover, an all-time active redressal committee should be mandated in every organization to ensure safety for women.

Conclusion

Women’s safety at the workplace has become a matter of serious concern in the country. Most of the victims are found in informal sectors, who don’t have any means to exercise their rights. Women from formal sectors are mostly educated and can raise their voices against men who tend to sexually assault them through social media and redressal laws. But women who are not educated normalize the daily torture from their male co-workers. Hence, we have a long way to go to protect every woman in the country from harassment at the workplace.

Questions

  1. What are the laws to protect women from workplace harassment?

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 seeks to guard women against harassment at the place of work.  

2. What are the measures to ensure the safety of women at the workplace?

Strict laws and regulations, increased awareness, self-defence and vocational training to women, setting up of an Internal Complaints Committee in every organization, and the increased role of HR in awareness programs are some of the measures.

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