Actress Emma Watson has helped launch a new helpline which gives free legal advice to women who are being sexually assaulted at work.
Women in England and Wales will be able to phone the advice line run by the charity Rights of Women, which helps women understand their rights and gives legal advice.
As well as taking donations from the public, the service has been kick started with funding from the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund. It will be managed by Rosa, a charitable fund supporting women and girls.
Rights of Women will be providing legal advice for sexual harassment victims, including:
- Identifying sexual harassment
- How to bring a complaint against an employer
- The employment tribunal procedure
- Settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements
The phone line is the only service of its type, something which the Harry Potter and Beauty And The Beast star found “staggering”.
“It finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem,” Watson said.
Research from the Trades Union Congress shows that as many as one in two women are sexually harassed in their place of work.
“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,” the actress 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.
“This advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.”
Rights of Women’s senior legal adviser Deeba Syed said that sexual assault in the workplace had reached “epidemic levels”.
“We want women to have access to their legal rights by knowing them,” she told Sky News.
“Right now, there is too much burden put on the women who have been sexually harassed to hold their employers and their harassers to account.
“We need to shift that burden away from the victims to the employers so women are encouraged to report sexual harassment in the workplace,” she said, adding that Watson had been a “fundamental catalyst” for the project.
The chairman of Time’s Up UK, Dame Heather Rabbatts, has welcomed the scheme, saying the launch of the line is a move to support vulnerable women who need help.
Since finishing all eight of the Harry Potter films, Emma Watson has been appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, as well as being a prominent member of the Time’s Up campaign.
She worked in Bangladesh and Zambia to promote female education and launched the #HeForShe campaign to encourage “men and people of all genders to stand in solidarity with women… for a gender-equal world”.
:: The Sexual Harassment At Work legal advice line can be called on 020 7490 0152 and is open on Mondays between 6pm and 8pm and on Tuesdays between 5pm and 7pm