Women Urged to Use New Harassment Helpline

A helpline for women who endure sexual harassment at work has been launched

020 7490 0152

A new hotline is offering women who are being sexually harassed at work access to advice, support and legal help.

Actress Supports New Hotline

Emma Watson, famous for her career launching role in the Harry Potter films has offered her support to the launch of a new telephone hotline that aims to support women who have been subject to sexual harassment at work.

TUC research

Three years ago, the TUC Everyday Sexism Project identified that 52% of women and 63% of women aged 18-24 have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.

That survey conducted by YouGov identified

  • nearly one in three (32%) of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work
  • more than one in four (28%) of women have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work
  • nearly a quarter (23%) of women have experienced unwanted touching – like a hand on the knee or lower back at work
  • a fifth (20%) of women have experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances at work
  • around one in eight (12%) women have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them at work.
  • Sexual harassment at work can take many forms, from suggestive remarks, jokes about a colleague’s sex life, circulating pornography, to inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing, or demands for sexual favours.
  • In the vast majority of cases (88%), the perpetrator of the sexual harassment was male, and nearly one in five (17%) women reported that it was their line manager, or someone with direct authority over them.

Silence

The Everyday Sexism Project called Still just a bit of banter? also found that around four out of five (79%) women who said they experienced sexual harassment at work did not tell their employer about what was happening.

This is because they thought that reporting the harassment would

  • 28% thought that reporting would have a negative impact their relationships at work
  • 15% thought that reporting would negatively impact their career prospects
  • 20% were too embarrassed to talk about it
  • 24% did not think that they would be believed or taken seriously

BAME women

Women who identify as black, minority and ethnic origin (BME) said that they have been harassed at work.

More than half (52%) said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

LGBT

This is a theme that was also highlighted in July 2019 by more TUC research which identified that nearly 7 in 10 (68%) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people reported being sexually harassed at work.

Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of those who experienced sexual harassment said it had a negative impact on their working life:

Around 1 in 6 (16%) said they left their job as a result of the sexual harassment

A fifth (20%) said it made them feel less confident at work

Around 1 in 7 (14%) said it caused them to avoid certain work situations – like meetings, courses, locations and particular shifts – in order to avoid the person who was harassing them

Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) said the harassment made them feel embarrassed at work.

Shouting Back

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “How many times do we still hear that sexual harassment in the workplace is just a bit of ‘banter’?

In response to these findings, the Everyday Sexism Project is launching a new platform, www.shoutingback.org.uk which will bring together in one place for the first time information about legal rights, reporting options and available support for women experiencing workplace sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and abuse.

New legal advice line to help women sexually harassed at work

Charity Rights of Women have launched a new advice service, which they claim is the first of its kind in England and Wales.

The helpline will plug a gap in the availability of legal advice by allowing women to access the help and support they need to hold their employer and harasser to account.

Two female lawyers will be available to help callers to the Sexual Harassment at Work Legal Advice Line which will have limited operating hours to begin with.

Mondays 6pm – 8pm

Tuesdays 5pm – 7pm

To expand the service Rights of Women, which is run by female legal professionals, need to recruit and train more female volunteers.

Rights for women, said Deeba Syed, senior legal officer for Rights of Women, hope that by advising women about their legal options and increasing their understanding of equalities and discrimination law, to  be able to help them make informed choices about next steps, including how to navigate the legal system with confidence.”

Law not fit for purpose

Syed and the TUC have both echoed a call from the  parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) for a change in the law that would put the onus on employers to prevent sexual harassment of employees.

In a report on its year-long investigation into the enforcement of the 2010 Equality Act, the WEC said the current approach, which relies on individual victims initiating legal action, was “no longer fit for purpose”, and a new strategy was needed to provide a sustainable deterrent for employers guilty of “institutional and systemic discrimination”.

They want to transfer the burden of proof from the victim to the perpetrator, because the committee had found that employers are “not afraid to discriminate” because they knew they were unlikely to be held to account.

Wide Ranging Funding

Funding for the legal advice hotline has been provided by campaign group Time’s Up and charity Rosa, as well as donations from the public and celebrities including Emma Watson.

UN Women’s goodwill ambassador, Watson, said that 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.”

Why do people do it?

During their coverage of the story BBC Radio 4 Womens’ Hour asked whether it was time for society to ask why men sexually harass women.

Avoiding for the moment the cases of when men are sexually harassed and prove that this anti-social behaviour affects all people regardless of gender

Men who flirt at work tend to be less satisfied with their job.

We found that the answer according to business psychologists Chadi Moussa and Adrian Banks, from the University of Surrey could be simple.

If we interpret sexual harassment as an excessive form of flirting, there is evidence that men who engage in this sort of activity are very unhappy at work or simply bored without enough to do.

Their research which involve two hundred and one participants (men and women, aged between 21 and 68) completed a questionnaire measuring flirting behaviours at work, job satisfaction, self-reported job performance, and personality, found that flirting at work was negatively related to job satisfaction for men.

There was no significant relationship between flirting and job satisfaction for women.

People flirt for various reasons, which include increasing their self-esteem, fun and romance.

If men are feeling unsatisfied in their roles, then they may resort to flirting to keep them entertained and this would partially explain the negative relationship.

While flirting can have benefits, excessive flirting at work may be a sign that you’re unsatisfied with your job or simple bored.

These findings contradict popular notions that flirting at work can make employees mores satisfied or perform better.”

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