Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Concept Of An Extended Workplace Under India's POSH Act

The POSH Act, in short for Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, introduces the concept of ‘extended workplace’ covering under its ambit any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such a journey. Hence, any form of harassment at a company-sponsored event whether within or outside of the normal working hours would also fall under the scope of the POSH Act.

It is now well accepted that a workplace is any place where working relationships between employer and employee(s) exist, going beyond the physical boundaries of the primary workplace or office building. 

A workplace is defined as- 
“any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such a journey.”
As per this definition, a workplace covers both the organised and unorganised sectors. It also includes all workplaces whether owned by Indian or foreign company having a place of work in India. 

Workplace is any place where “working relationships” exist and, in addition to your office, it also constitutes workplace of an external client, premises of other organisations, hotels, restaurants, and other venues during official functions/events, workstation of other employees, lifts in the building, Restrooms/toilets, corridors, canteens/cafeteria/entertainment zone, official tours/field visits etc.

As per the Act, workplace includes: 
- Government organizations, including Government company, corporations and cooperative societies;
- Private sector organisations, venture, society, trust, NGO or service providers etc. providing services which are commercial, vocational, educational, sports, professional, entertainment, industrial, health related or financial activities, including production, supply, sale, distribution or service;
- Hospitals/Nursing Homes;
- Sports Institutes/Facilities;
- Places visited by the employee (including while on travel) including transportation provided by employer;
- A dwelling place or house. 
The Act defines the Unorganised Sector as any enterprise owned by an individual or self-employed workers engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing services of any kind, or any enterprise which employs less than 10 workers. All women working or visiting workplaces

In Gaurav Jain v. Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust and Ors. the court clearly upheld the scope of the act to include protection to women when on an outstation visit with respect to or in relation to work. 

In Jaya Kodate v. Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University, the Bombay High Court pointed out that the definition of 'workplace' is inclusive and deliberately kept wide by the Parliament to ensure that any area where women may be subjected to sexual harassment is not left unattended or unprovoked for.

Though such effective, and clear remedies are available in the laws, it is important for us to be aware of our rights, and the remedies we can seek in case of a mishap. The rate of cases successfully obtaining remedies under the POSH Act has also been proved highly effective. 

Learning the rights and duties under the law is important for all, as these rights and duties are endowed only upon us. As the legal maxim says: ignorance of law is no excuse, and we have a duty to know our rights and obligations.  

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