Emma Watson Launches Workplace Harassment Legal Advice Line
Fresh from conquering Hollywood and her inspiring work as a UNICEF ambassador, actor and Time’s Up UK activist Emma Watson has thrown her support behind yet another game-changing cause.
The famous British actor has helped launch a harassment advice line for women, and has urged women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace to understand and exercise their rights.
The former child star said it is “completely staggering” that the free advice line, launched in August for women in England and Wales, is the only service of its kind.
In light of research that reveals as many as one in two women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, she said: “It finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem, and I’m certainly hopeful that with global standards such as the recent International Labour Organisation treaty on harassment at work, we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”
Donations from the public, including from Watson, has helped get the service off the ground. The free advice line is backed by the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund, and managed by Rosa, which is the UK Fund for Women and Girls.
Watson said: “Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.”
The service also plugs the gap in the availability of legal advice, with the aim of empowering victims of harassment in holding their harasser or employer to account.
Deeba Syed, senior legal officer of Rights of Women, claims that workplace sexual harassment has reached “epidemic levels”. She said: “By advising women about their legal options and increasing their understanding of equalities and discrimination law, we will be able to help them make informed choices about next steps, including how to navigate the legal system with confidence. We know that complaints of sexual harassment at work are still frequently responded to in a gendered manner that is negative, undermining or can lead to victimisation. That is why Rights of Women will also work towards dismantling the underlying structural problems that puts the burden on victims and makes it difficult for women to come forward through its policy work.”
Dame Heather Rabbatts, Time’s Up UK chairman, said the service will help vulnerable women who need legal advice and information, with Rosa’s project director hoping it would give women the confidence to fight for action.
Advice is provided by Rights of Women, and those calling can expect to receive specialist legal advice on issues including:
• What behaviour constitutes sexual harassment
• How to bring a grievance against an employer
• How to make a claim in an employment tribunal
• How to address settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
Anyone who experiences sexual harassment at work in the UK is protected by the Equality Act 2010. In some cases, pointing out to someone their behaviour is making you uncomfortable may be enough to stop it, and confiding in a colleague at work could also help you to decide on the right cause of action. If this doesn’t help, you can tell your manager. Citizen’s Advice suggests you put this in writing and keep a copy. Keep a diary recording the harassment, with details such as when it happened and who witnessed it. Speak to your HR department or trade union, who are there to offer advice. You can stay anonymous if you choose. You may wish to make a formal complaint. All employers are required to have a grievance procedure, where you can set out in writing the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of the harassment. If these options don’t work, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. Source: Slater and Gordon employment solicitors, via BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49237084).
The advice line number is 020 7490 0152. More information can be found on the charity’s website at https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/.