More than a fifth of callers to sexual harassment advice line forced out of work

More than one in five callers to a legal advice line for women suffering sexual harassment at work either resigned or were dismissed from their jobs, new figures show.

The service was launched a year ago by Time’s Up UK with the help of Harry Potter actress and activist Emma Watson with more than four in ten callers reporting sexual assault in the workplace.

The line, which was started with donations from members of the public including Watson, allows women to access advice through charity Rights of Women.

It said nearly 300 calls has been made to the line in its first 12 months, with 44% of callers reporting workplace sexual assault with examples including groping, patting of legs and being forcibly kissed.

Nearly 60% of callers reported receiving less favourable treatment for rejecting or submitting to sexual harassment, or victimisation for reporting behaviour.

This included allegations of employers failing to properly investigate a report of sexual harassment, employees facing threats of dismissal from a workplace or denied job promotions.

Meanwhile, 15% of the calls were from people who had been signed off sick from work due to stress or other mental health issues stemming from harassment and discrimination.

Deeba Syed, Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women, said sexism was “entrenched” in workplaces.

She added: “One year on since the launch of our advice line, the statistics have confirmed our worst fears since the #MeToo revelations.

“We finally have a clearer picture of how women are experiencing systematic sexual abuse and discrimination in the workplace. Our data exposes the extent of the harm women are experiencing.

“We can no longer minimise the truth: victims of sexual harassment are systematically discriminated against. Women are disbelieved, discredited, and treated with hostility and suspicion.”

Emma Watson helped launch the line last year
Emma Watson helped launch the line last year

One woman who called the line said she experienced racial discrimination from colleagues which was overlooked after refusing to have sex with her manager, according to Dame Heather Rabbatts, chairwoman of Time’s Up UK.

She said: “We are living through a moment of collective realisation, where the stories of women who experience multiple oppressions are finally being heard, but the structural inequalities that allow discrimination to persist are still deeply embedded.

“The Rights of Women Sexual Harassment at Work advice line has shown to be vital in supporting women who would otherwise be abandoned, giving women the confidence to call it out, assert their legal rights and seek justice.

“Women will never achieve gender equality if we cannot work without having to fear harassment and discrimination, and for us at Time’s Up UK, we are dedicated to achieving just that.”

– The helpline is available on 020 7490 0152 on Monday to Wednesday, from 3-5pm and 6-8pm.