Closing The Gap

Emma Watson launches a free legal-advice hotline for women in the workplace

Actress Emma Watson attends the 'Beauty And The Beast' New York screening
Gary Gershoff | WireImage

Emma Watson wants women in the workplace to know their rights — and she's helping to break down the barriers to do so.

The actor and activist teamed up with Time's Up U.K. and the nonprofit Rights of Women to launch a phone line that provides free legal advice to women in England and Wales, according to The Guardian. Specifically, the resource aims to help women identify sexual harassment in the workplace, walk through the process of bringing a complaint against an employer, and understand laws around settlement agreements and non-disclosure agreements.

The resource, kick-started by donations from Watson and the public, is said to be the first of its kind.

"It's completely staggering to think that this is the only service of its type given that research has found that as many as one in two women experience sexual harassment in the workplace," Watson said in a statement, citing data collected by the Trades Union Congress in 2016.

"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," she said.

The phone line is a direct resource that can help employees navigate how to address sexual harassment in the workplace, which often puts the onus on victims to report and can leave them vulnerable to retaliation. In a survey released by global HR consultancy Randstad earlier this year, more than half of U.S. employees reported feeling unsure of what they can personally do to improve gender equality at work, and 51% said their companies aren't doing enough to address the issue.

It's completely staggering to think that this is the only service of its type given that research has found that as many as one in two women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
Emma Watson

Deeba Syed, Senior Legal Officer at Rights of Women, believes the advice line will support women who need information on how to hold employers and harassers to account.

"This advice line's purpose is to empower women to exercise their legal rights in the workplace," she said in a statement. "By advising women about their legal options and increasing their understanding of equalities and discrimination law, we will be able to help them make informed choices about next steps including how to navigate the legal system with confidence.

The advice line is funded by the Time's Up U.K. Justice and Equality Fund and managed by Rosa, a charitable fund that supports initiatives that benefit UK women and girls.

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Actress Emma Watson attends the 'Beauty And The Beast' New York screening
Gary Gershoff | WireImage
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