A new component on the annual reports of listed companies could be the new corporate 'white paper' on the state of women safety in companies in the country.
Following a 2012 guideline of market regulator SEBI, the top 100 companies listed on NSE and BSE have to present a non-financial annual report, the Business Responsibility Report (BRR), in addition to their annual financial reports. The BRR was conceptualized as an initiative in 'integrated reporting' to encourage long-term value addition by taking into consideration the public investment in the listed companies.
Clause 55 in the listing agreement of SEBI prescribes the requirement for listed entities to include a BRR as part of the annual report in concurrence with the 'National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business,' introduced by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in July 2011.
Besides, the Ministry of Women and Child Development also requires the companies to give details about cases of sexual harassment in workplaces under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The ministry recently launched an online portal to enable women employees of the central government to file complaints relating to sexual harassment at workplace while the Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said its ambit would be widened to include the private sector as well.
The 2013 legislation seeks to establish internal complaints committee with women members in every organization with more than 10 employees. As debates rage on the implementation of the law and the controversial provisions like 'resolution through conciliation' and the obvious silence on sexual harassment of men, numbers emerging from the BRR shows some specific trends in India's corporate workplaces.
Sexual harassment in India's top corporate spaces
While the proposed measure is expected to further improve the reporting of such cases, the disclosures made in the annual reports by the top listed blue-chips in India, forming part of the benchmark stock market index Sensex, show that the number of reported complaints rose at most companies. While some companies reported no incidents, some others showed a prompt response to filed complaints and a procedural follow-up.
Numbers for banking giant State Bank of India show that out of the 21 cases of sexual harassment reported during the 2016-17 fiscal year, 15 have been disposed of. During 2015-16, 27 complaints of sexual harassment of women were filed, of which 23 were disposed of during the same period.
Kotak Mahindra Bank disclosed having received 19 complaints during 2016-17, out of which 12 were disposed of and enquiries were in progress in the pending seven cases at the close of the year. In 2015 -16 the bank received a total of eight complaints, out of which four were disposed of and enquiries were in progress at year-end in the remaining four.
Housing finance major HDFC Ltd appeared a safe place, with their reports showing zero complaints received by the internal complaints committee through the last two fiscals.
Bajaj Auto, Hero Honda and Reliance Industries received no complaints. ITC too reported a clean record last fiscal, even though in the 2015-16 BRR, seven complaints of sexual harassment were reported as received, of which five were investigated and resolved and two were in the process of being redressed.
Tata Steel was among those where more cases were reported in the last fiscal; the company received 26 complaints during 2016-17, of which 19 were resolved by taking appropriate actions and the remaining seven were under investigation. During 2015-16, it had received 18 complaints out of which 14 were resolved and the remaining four were under investigation at the end of that year.
Mahindra & Mahindra disclosed that four complaints with allegations of sexual harassment were filed, out of which three were disposed of as per the policy during 2016-17 and one was pending at the year-end. In the previous fiscal also, four complaints were filed, all of which were disposed of by end of the year.
Bharti Airtel said five cases were reported and investigated in 2016-17. In three of these cases, the allegations were substantiated and the accused personnel were separated from their services.
Pharma major Cipla said a total of three cases were reported during 2016-17, and all cases have been satisfactorily addressed and appropriate action taken. In the previous fiscal, 14 cases were reported of which only two were under investigation at the year-end and subsequently, all the cases were satisfactorily addressed and appropriate action was taken.