The victims of workplace harassment can now electronically lodge complaints at the Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat’s website.
The Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat (FOS) for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Wednesday launched a Grievance Redressal System, which is a webpage where complaints can be filed in English or Urdu and is backed by an SMS tracking system.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Federal Ombudsperson against Harassment Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasey said the website will provide easy access to men and women who face harassment at work and are unable to visit the ombudsman’s office to register their complaints.
Sharing details of the website, she said the complainant has to log on to the website, create an account and register his or her complaint along with complete personal information, which will be kept confidential.
“Only the FOS staff will have access to the complaints and they will be acted upon if determined to be accurate,” she added.
Abbasey said that although the law was passed in 2010, lack of awareness among the public is one of the major challenges towards its effective implementation.
“There is a need to let people know that they have a legal right to raise their voice against people who make them feel uncomfortable at their workplace,” she said.
The workplace needs to be hospitable so as to positively contribute towards the development of the country’s institutions.
The ombudsperson further said the anti-workplace harassment act forces managements of public and private sector organisations to display copies of the act in English as well as in languages understood by a majority of employees at conspicuous places within the office premises.
In the three-and-a-half years, FOS has received 157 complaints from across the country, with the majority coming from the public sector, she said, adding that of these, only six have yet to be resolved while the rest have been addressed.
Meanwhile, talking to The Express Tribune, Maliha Husain, the director of Mehergarh, an anti-harassment NGO, said that since 2010, thousands of cases of harassment at the workplace have been reported from across the country, but they were not highlighted in the media because of their serious nature.
She said a majority of cases involved women complaining about their bosses asking for sexual favours, which, if refused, are followed by hostile actions such as longer hours, tough assignments, transfers to other departments or cities and delayed promotions or increments.
Husain said many organisations including hospitals still need to adopt the anti-harassment code of conduct, while only ten universities across the country have adopted it.
She said it is unfortunate that Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited have been the most unserious with regard to implementing the code of conduct.
ILO Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio also expressed concern over the non-implementation of the code at major oganisations and emphasised the role of government, employers, trade unions and civil society in ensuring zero tolerance for harassment at the workplace. He said workplaces should be safe, secure and productive environments.
Victims of harassment at the workplace can log on to www.fos-pah.gov.pk to have their grievances addressed.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2013.