7 August 2019
A group dedicated to achieving equality, justice and safety in the law for all women has launched the only specialist free legal advice line for women in England and Wales experiencing sexual harassment at work.
It will be run by Rights of Women legal staff, together with volunteer women employment lawyers, and will offer advice on what behaviour constitutes sexual harassment, how to bring a grievance against an employer and how to make a claim in the employment tribunal.
It will also cover settlement agreements, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and other related legal problems faced by women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Deeba Syed, Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women said: “The evidence shows that sexual harassment in the workplace is at epidemic levels. 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.”
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, the service is funded by the TIME’S UP UK Justice and Equality Fund, managed by Rosa, the UK Fund for Women and Girls, kickstarted by donations from British actor and activist Emma Watson and others.
Speaking at the launch of the service, Ms 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.”
Available on 020 7490 0152, the phone line will initially run on Mondays from 18:00 to 20:00 and on Tuesdays from 17:00 to 19:00 with more opening times due in the near future.
Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer
This high-profile development would seem to be the latest move in the continued effort to tackle workplace harassment and employers should seriously consider the impact this could have on their company if any of their employees choose to utilise this service.
While this advice line will not have any accountability powers of its own, employees will now have another avenue to explore that can clearly outline to them their rights and entitlements and, most importantly, what steps they can take if they do not feel that their employer has responded appropriately to their accusations.
With the assistance that this can provide employees, we could well see a rise in the number of harassment claims being heard and it is vital that employers are ready and willing to tackle this issue in their company.