In recent years, workplace environments have been steadily evolving to become more inclusive, respectful, and safer for all employees. To ensure this transformation, various guidelines and regulations have been put in place. Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) guidelines are essential for maintaining a safe and harassment-free workplace. These guidelines are not just for HR professionals,they are for every employee’s benefit. Creating a safe and respectful workplace environment is crucial for any organization’s success.
To ensure that employees are protected from any form of harassment, discrimination, or misconduct, the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) Guidelines play a vital role.
What is an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)?
An Internal Complaints Committee, often referred to as ICC, is a mandatory committee established within organizations to address and resolve complaints related to sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace. Its primary goal is to create a safe and supportive working environment for all employees.
It must consist of at least four members, including a Presiding officer, two employees from the organization, and one external member (preferably an NGO representative or a legal expert).
The ICC must be impartial, unbiased, and sensitive to the complainant’s needs.
Why do we need ICC?
ICC plays a vital role in creating a safe and respectful work environment. They provide a structured platform for employees to voice their concerns, seek resolution, and protect their rights. Having ICC in place not only complies with legal requirements but also reinforces an organization’s commitment to its employees’ well-being.
They empower employees to report instances of sexual harassment without fear of retaliation. By addressing complaints promptly and fairly, ICCs help in fostering a culture of respect, equality, and dignity at the workplace.
Constitution of ICC
An ICC must be constituted in every organization employing ten or more employees, as mandated by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
An ICC is typically constituted with a minimum of four members, as follows:
1. Presiding Officer
2. Two Internal Members
3. External Member
1. Presiding Officer:
The Presiding Officer in the context of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) is a crucial position responsible for leading and overseeing the committee’s proceedings related to complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. Here’s a closer look at the role and responsibilities of the Presiding Officer:
Leadership Role: The Presiding Officer is typically a senior employee within the organization and is chosen to lead the ICC due to their experience and authority.
Conducting Proceedings: The primary responsibility of the Presiding Officer is to conduct the proceedings of the ICC. This includes initiating and overseeing the inquiry process when a complaint of sexual harassment is filed.
Ensuring Fairness: The Presiding Officer must ensure that the inquiry is conducted fairly, impartially, and without bias. They should create an atmosphere where both the complainant and the respondent are treated equitably.
Confidentiality: Maintaining strict confidentiality is crucial. The Presiding Officer should ensure that the identities of the complainant, respondent, and witnesses are protected throughout the investigation.
Documentation: It is the Presiding Officer’s responsibility to document all aspects of the complaint, including the initial complaint, interviews, evidence, and proceedings. This documentation helps in maintaining transparency and accountability.
Communication: The Presiding Officer communicates regularly with all parties involved in the complaint, keeping them informed about the progress of the inquiry and any relevant developments.
Timely Resolution: To ensure a timely resolution, the Presiding Officer must adhere to the statutory timelines for completing the inquiry, which is usually within 90 days from the date of the complaint.
Reporting: Once the inquiry is concluded, the Presiding Officer compiles a detailed report that includes findings and recommendations. This report is then submitted to the employer for necessary action.
Sensitivity: The Presiding Officer must be sensitive to the emotional and psychological well-being of the complainant and ensure that they feel supported throughout the process.
Compliance: Ensuring that the ICC operates in compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, and any other relevant laws and regulations is crucial.
2. Two Internal Members:
They are employees from different departments or levels within the organization. They should have a reasonable level of experience within the organization which helps them to understand the organizational dynamics, hierarchies, and policies effectively. Familiarity with the legal framework surrounding workplace harassment, particularly the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
They assist the Presiding Officer during investigations, represent the organization’s perspective, and maintain objectivity. Act as a bridge between the ICC and the organization, ensuring a balanced perspective. Uphold objectivity and neutrality during the inquiry process. Maintain confidentiality and handle sensitive information responsibly.
They should be empathetic and sensitive to the emotional well-being of the complainant and all parties involved. This helps create a supportive and respectful environment during the inquiry and capable of articulating their thoughts clearly, listening attentively, and mediating discussions during the investigation process.
3. External member:
The external member is usually an expert or a representative from an NGO with expertise in matters related to sexual harassment. Their presence ensures objectivity and fairness in the proceedings. The primary role of an External Member is to provide an impartial and unbiased perspective throughout the inquiry process. As they are not employed by the organization, they can offer an objective viewpoint on the matter at hand. External Members often possess legal or ethical expertise related to issues of sexual harassment. Their knowledge helps ensure that the ICC adheres to legal requirements and ethical standards in its proceedings.
Their presence enhances the transparency of the ICC’s operations. Employees, complainants, and respondents can trust that the inquiry is conducted fairly with the External Member’s oversight. This ensures that the complainant and the respondent are treated equitably. They may educate the ICC on the legal framework, the definition of sexual harassment, and best practices in addressing such complaints. This knowledge ensures that the committee operates effectively and according to the law.
An External Member in an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) brings a valuable external perspective, legal expertise, and impartiality to the committee’s proceedings. Their presence ensures fairness, transparency, and compliance with legal requirements, ultimately contributing to the creation of a safe and harassment-free workplace.
Roles and Responsibilities:
1. Receiving Complaints:
The ICC’s primary role is to receive and handle complaints related to sexual harassment or discrimination. Ensure confidentiality throughout the process to protect the complainant’s identity.
2. Conducting Investigations:
The committee should conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into the allegations. Collect evidence, interview witnesses, and maintain detailed records.
3. Timely Resolution:
The ICC should aim to resolve complaints within 90 days from the date of filing.
In exceptional cases, an extension of 30 days may be granted.
4. Provide Recommendations:
After a thorough investigation, the ICC should provide recommendations for action. Recommendations may include disciplinary actions, counseling, or preventive measures.
Maintain proper records of all complaints, actions taken, and recommendations. Submit an annual report to the employer, highlighting the number of complaints received and actions taken.
· The complainant’s identity should remain confidential throughout the process.
· Protection against retaliation for filing a complaint.
· The ICC should provide support and guidance to the complainant during the process.
· Offer counseling or necessary resources if required.
· Ensure that the complainant does not face any adverse consequences due to filing a complaint.
· Treat all parties involved fairly and impartially.
· Employers must establish an ICC as mandated by law.
· Communicate the guidelines to all employees.
· Train ICC members, employees, and supervisors on sexual harassment prevention.
· Create awareness about the guidelines within the organization.
· Ensure that the ICC follows the guidelines and operates independently.
· Provide necessary resources for the committee’s functioning.
The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) Guidelines play a crucial role in creating a safe and inclusive work environment. It is essential for employers, employees, and ICC members to understand and follow these guidelines diligently. By doing so, we can contribute to a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, fostering a culture of respect and equality for all.
By embracing these guidelines in a professional and proactive manner, employers can demonstrate their commitment to fostering a culture of respect, equality, and accountability within their organizations.
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