In a bid to make women aware of their rights in the workplace especially in the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, a new legal advice helpline for women who face sexual harassment at work in England and Wales has been launched.
As a first-of-its-kind phone line, the aim of the free helpline is to plug a gap in the availability of specialist legal advice so that women can get the right assistance to hold their employer and harasser to account.
According to the press statement put out by the charity Rights of Women, which is responsible for providing legal advice, women who make a call will be able to “get specialist legal advice on what behaviour constitutes sexual harassment, how to bring a grievance against their employer, how to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal, settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and other related legal problems faced by women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace”.
Backed by the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund and managed by Rosa, a charitable fund which provides financial support for initiatives geared towards girls and women across the UK, the helpline has been kickstarted with the help of public donations, including from actor Emma Watson.
Watson, who launched the legal advice helpline said it was “completely staggering” that this was the only service of its kind for women in England and Wales.
Pointing out a recent research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which reported that one in two women have experienced sexual harassment at work, Watson 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 Organization treaty on harassment at work we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”
The Little Women actor further remarked, “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.”
While sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of violence against women, it has remained a “hidden issue” with many women believing it was an inevitable part of their jobs or that it would jeopardise their careers to assert their legal rights, said Deeba Syed, senior legal officer at Rights of Women.
“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,” said Syed.
When women in England and Wales call the helpline on 020 7490 0152, they will be connected to a representative from charity Rights of Women.