New Delhi : A woman in Central services complaining about sexual harassment at workplace shall be entitled for 90 days of extra leave during the pendency of the inquiry, in addition to leaves like annual earned leave and maternity leave she is entitled.

The Department of Personnel and Training issued a draft two days ago following Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi complaining that Section 12 (1)(D) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, also entitled a woman employee the option to take leave up to 90 days when her complaint is under probe, but there is no clarity whether it will be additional leave or adjusted against the existing leave.

The draft clarifies that it would be additional leave and not deducted from the woman’s leave account. It says the leave “may be granted to an aggrieved female government servant on the recommendation of the internal committee or the local committee, as the case may be, during the pendency of inquiry under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The leave so granted to the aggrieved woman under this rule shall not be debited against the leave account”.

Instead of putting this provision straightaway in the Central Civil Services Act, 1972, the DoPT has, however, invited comments from the stakeholders since some employers are concerned that this will encourage misuse of the sexual harassment law, officials said.

“No internal inquiry committee can deny leave to women who face such harassment. This will not only lead to misuse, but invite frivolous complaints. Also, what about the work that will suffer? There are already provisions of transfer in the law and optional leave,” a senior bureaucrat said.

The circular comes three days after the personnel department issued an order clarifying that a new draft of the harassment law will allow an official junior to the accused to head the internal committee dealing with sexual harassment complaints.

The clarification came after questions were raised about the seniority of the official who could head the panel probing allegations of sexual harassment against an officer senior to her.

It is clarified that the committee constituted under the 2013 Act is legally competent to hold an inquiry into a case irrespective of the fact that the chairperson of such committee is lower in rank to the employee against whom the allegations have been made,” the draft said.

According to the Act, an internal complaints committee is to be set up at every workplace to deal with sexual harassment cases. Also, it should be headed by a woman and at least half of its members should be women.

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