Over 20% of callers to sexual harassment line forced out of work

25 August 2020, 12:10

Callers reported receiving poor treatment for rejecting or submitting to harassment
Callers reported receiving poor treatment for rejecting or submitting to harassment. Picture: PA

More than 20% of people calling an advice line about sexual harassment at work have been forced from their jobs, according to new figures.

The phone service, launched a year ago by Time's Up UK, said over a fifth of callers who had experienced such harassment in the workplace had either resigned or were dismissed.

Almost 300 calls have been made to the line since it was started with the help of Harry Potter actress and activist Emma Watson a year ago, and has seen 44% of callers reporting workplace sexual assault.

The claims included instances of groping, patting of legs and being forcibly kissed.

As a result, almost 60% of callers said they had received less favourable treatment for rejecting or submitting to the behaviour.

They also said they had experienced victimisation for reporting it.

Among the allegations were stories of employers failing to carry out adequate investigations, and leaving employees facing potential dismissal or being denied promotions.

The line, which gives women access to advice through charity Rights of Women, said around 15% of the callers had been signed off sick because of stress or other mental health issues due to harassment and discrimination.

Deeba Syed, senior legal officer at Rights of Women, said the new numbers had confirmed her "worst fears" as they showed sexism was "entrenched" in the workplace.

She said: "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."

According to Dame Heather Rabbatts, chairwoman of Time's Up UK, one woman had called the line to say she had experienced racial discrimination after refusing to have sex with her manager.

This behaviour from her colleagues, the woman reported, had since been overlooked.

Rabbatts 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.