Emma Watson launches free sexual harassment advice line

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Emma WatsonImage source, Getty Images

Actress Emma Watson has helped launch a free legal advice phone line for women who have experienced sexual harassment at work.

The Time's Up UK activist said it was "completely staggering" the new service was the only one of its kind in England and Wales.

The line has been funded by donations from the public, including Watson.

Research from the TUC union found as many as one in two women experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Watson said it "finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem", and she was "certainly hopeful" of starting to see "a new climate of prevention and accountability" in the UK.

Women who call the line will be able to get 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)

The legal advice is provided by Rights of Women - a charity which works to help women through the law.

The scheme is backed by the Time's Up UK Justice and Equality Fund, and managed by Rosa - 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.

"This advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work."

The phone line will run on Mondays from 18:00 BST to 20:00, and Tuesdays 17:00 to 19:00.

What to do if you're being sexually harassed

Anyone who experiences sexual harassment at work in the UK is protected by the Equality Act 2010.

In some cases, telling 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 what to do.

If not, you can:

  • Tell your manager - Citizen's Advice suggests you put this in writing and keep a copy
  • Keep a diary recording the harassment, when it happened and who witnessed it
  • Speak to your HR department or trade union, who can offer advice - you can stay anonymous if you choose
  • 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 and how it made you feel

If these options don't work, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Source: Slater and Gordon employment solicitors

Government action

The Government Equalities Office told the BBC it "welcomed" the launch of the new phone line.

Penny Mordaunt - who was the minister for Women and Equalities until last month - announced measures to strengthen the existing law, giving explicit protections to workers against harassment from third parties.

Although she has been replaced by Amber Rudd as the new minister, the government said they were still going ahead with the plan.