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Protecting Yourself When Things Go Wrong


Protecting yourself at work can be done using a LINES framework:

L - Learn your leverage at work

I - Find out your internal processes

N - Keep contemporaneous notes

E - Keep an evidence timeline

S - Identify your support systems


L - Learn your leverage at work

  • You can have reputational leverage and legal leverage - these are the risks that the employer can face.
  • Using your legal leverage means knowing your rights and at which stages they kick in, such as discrimination and dismissal rights.
  • There may be more types of discrimination then you realise - for example, in the UK there are actually six types of discrimination you can leverage against, such as indirect discrimination, harassment and failure to make reasonable adjustments.
  • An internal complaint is the first big way to use your leverage.
  • If that fails, a settlement agreement is the next big tool.
  • Finally, a legal claim is the biggest tool in your arsenal.

I - find out your internal processes

  • Check internal policies such as whistleblowing policies, codes of conduct and grievance policies.
  • Check your company handbook.
  • If you follow the policies and expect your employer to do so, you signal to your employer that you know what you are doing. It also means if you have to go down the legal route, a tribunal would have expected you to resolve things internally first.

N - Keep contemporaneous notes

  • Contemporaneous notes are notes taken as soon as possible after a situation has taken place.
  • When gathering proof of something such as discrimination, contemporaneous notes are considered the next best thing to ‘solid’ evidence such as CCTV footage.
  • Write down what happened, who was there, the time, date and location.
  • Record notes in a tool with a built-in timestamp - such as sending an email to yourself (from your personal email) or through a free tool like the one featured on the Valla platform.

E - Keep an evidence timeline

  • Keep a chronological timeline of key events and any evidence of the event you are facing.
  • Again, you can do this for free on the Valla platform, where you can upload time-stamped notes and attached photos or other evidence.
  • This helps you keep proof if somebodies tries to lie and will save you money if you need to get a lawyer later down the line.

S - Identify your support systems

  • Who would you call if you were put into a difficult situation at work?
  • This does not stop at friends and family, but can also include pro bono centers and advice organisations.
  • Friends and family can also help by coming to internal meetings, such as grievance meetings, and taking notes.
  • Identify advice organisations that are relevant to you, such as legal advice organisations and special interest charities such as maternity rights charities - there is one based in the UK called Pregnant Then Screwed.
  • Look for law clinics in nearby universities and ask about pro bono support and local law big firm.
  • Ask a union rep for help.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to other colleagues for support.
  • If you have one, use your internal Employee Assistance Programmes.
  • Work with HR to reduce legal and reputational risk - such as through a settlement.

Above all - remember you have more power than you think!


Thanks so much. Hello, everyone. I am Danae. I'm a co-founder and CEO of a company that helps people deal with workplace nightmares. Today, I'm going to tell you about how to protect yourself when things can turn into a nightmare, at work, or when you think they're turning into a nightmare. This is me. If you have any questions, email me, and I will give you more links soon.

What I will talk you through is a quick mnemonic to protect yourself at work. All you need to know is to remember your lines. Let's quickly talk through what those lines are. So I'm going to give you a little whistle stop tour of these five sections. I will tell you a little bit more about this and about my company and we go through them, so you have a better idea of why these work and how to think about things.

So, first, I'm going to help you understand what your leverage is at work, and why that is so important to identify first. Then I'm going to help you think about how to use your internal processes, if things go wrong. Then I'm going to tell you about contemporaneous notes, and why they are the secret weapon for "it's my word against theirs", so and then talking about an evidence timeline, and your support systems. Before I dive in, just a little bit of context here. I am not a lawyer, and I'm not an employment lawyer. I'm just a woman who worked in tech, a software developer, a marketer, I got more senior, and I found with my friend Kate, we solved a lot of problems of people getting bullied at work, harassed, and we got really mad that no-one was able to do anything about it, and so our company and our platform helps people deal with these issues themselves because, frankly, nobody can afford a lawyer these days. So this is all about you being able to protect yourself, educating yourself enough, so that be when anything goes badly wrong, you can deal with it before you pick up the phone to the next person. Let's dive in.

Let's understand your leverage. The L of "lines". Now, when I think about leverage with an employer, typically, you're thinking about two different kinds of leverage that you have, and your employer will think about this as two different types of risk, so they will think about reputational risk to them, and then they will think about legal risk to them. And now legal risk in particular, that's a big risk, because legal risk is money. And that is tough. So if you think about what an employer is trying to do, in any kind of conflict situation, is they're trying reduce risk. If you know that, and can think about it that way, then you can actually help them understand how they can reduce the risk in their situation. That is your leverage.

So, the key thing, the key best leverage that you can use is your legal leverage, and that is down to knowing what your rights are. Now, a lot of people in the UK specifically think they don't have any rights before two years. Now, that's not true. There are rights that don't kick in until after two years, like unfair and constructive dismissal, and those frankly should kick in before it is awful. But, you do have a lot of rights, typically called "day one rights" before two years, even during the hiring process, before you even start your job. And most of those are around discrimination, as well as things like whistle-blowing.

Now, I think a lot of people when they hear the word "discrimination", they think about like a jerk calling someone a slur, or some really kind of like overt moustached-twirling kind of discrimination, which is discrimination, but there are actually six different types of discrimination here in the UK. I want you to -- I'm going to give you a little whistle-stop tour of those. I want you to understand that you might have a lot more rights than you think you have.

So, there are the six different types of discrimination that you have a legal right to in the UK before you even start your job. So direct discrimination: that is the moustache-twirling villain. That is "I'm going to discriminate against you because you have this protected characteristic" your race, age, gender, the disability you have, et cetera. That's what we think of as discrimination. There are five other kinds.

There is indirect discrimination where a company process or a policy indirectly affects a whole group of people with one protected characteristic. So think of like terrible dress codes that make women have to wear skimpy clothes but men don't. That's indirect discrimination.

There is harassment. Harassment is not just sexual harassment. People can see other people being discriminated against, and that can count as harassment. Anything that creates a degrading humiliating environment that is related to a protected characteristic is harassment. There is so much more than we think that falls under that category.

Victimisation. You have the right to speak up at work about any discrimination that is happening. If you speak up about it whether happening to you or someone else and you're punished as a result of speaking up about it, that's illegal. That's called victimisation.

There are two specific types of discrimination that are related specifically for people who have disabilities. The discrimination arising from a disability is just a fancy way of saying you're not just protected because you have the disability, but you're also protected because that has knock-on effects into your life, and they can't discriminate against you because of those knock-on effects.

Also, there is a failure to make reasonable adjustments. If you have a disability in the UK, you have every right to ask your employer to make some reasonable adjustments for that disability at work. If they don't even engage with that process, they're at risk of that type of discrimination.

Now, that is a little whistle-stop tour. There is so much more to it. I want to give you a flavour of the rights that you have that you might not even have known that you had. So that is legal leverage that you have that you might not have even known about. And when you then think about how can I use legal leverage? Well, we are going to talk about that in the next section, but here's a really quick surgical.

First, you would do an internal complaint. The biggest tool that an employer uses to reduce that risk, that legal risk especially, is a settlement agreement. That's a very common way of them getting that risk off the table. And then it is only after those two things happen that you would even need to kind of go legal with that legal leverage. So you have options to protect yourself.

All right, so, let's look at the "I " in "lines". Learning to use internal processes. When I say internal processes, in is the kind of stuff I mean: what is your sickness and absence policy? Your grievance and disciplinary process? All employees have to have a disciplinary and grievance process. Or use the ACAS code of practice. There are different policies that employers will have and it is super important to check your company handbook and look at those things -- if you think they could be relating to a situation that you're in, and the reason that is important is if you follow the process and expect your employer also to follow the process, you're signalling a few different things. The first thing is that you're signalling to your employer is don't mess me about. I know what I'm doing here. Please take me seriously. That is super valuable when you're dealing with some kind of a conflict. It also means that you were to have to get legal later on, the Tribunal or a court would be expecting you to show that you had tried to resolve it internally. And so following it means that you're building a strong case. And it helps you actually resolve your issue. Many people manage to solve their issues long before they have to get anywhere past just an internal process. So that is "I ".

Now let's talk about contemporaneous notes. So, this is the secret weapon against the big question I get asked, particularly about discrimination. It is his word against mine. It's her word against mine. How do I prove it? I don't have any hard evidence. Well, the answer is contemporaneous notes.

Contemporaneous just means notes that are taken as soon as possible after an event or action takes place. Now, why are these so valuable? Well, courts and tribunals, they understand that solid evidence is hard to get. Not everybody's walking around with live vlogging, there is not CCTV everywhere. They know that hard evidence is not always possible, but contemporaneous notes, they are the next best thing. And that is because contemporaneous is important, because tribunals know that memory can change over time, and so if you can show that as soon as that thing happened, or as soon after as possible you wrote down to the best of your fresh recollection when that happened, they will take that much more seriously than something written two, three, five, six months later.

How do you do this? You write down what happened, who was there, what was said, as soon as you possibly can, after the thing that happened. And record those notes in something that has a built-in time stamp. We have this for free on the Valla platform. A lot of the Valla platform is completely free for things like this, or email yourself, that's a really cheap way. Make sure that you do not do it from your work system. You know, if you do it from your work system, make sure you take a copy, because they can switch off your access and you lose your notes.

The other way to do it is to send a follow-up email to everybody and say we had this chat, here is a quick summary of who said what. So you can be professional and documenting at the same time. All right, so we've got two more. The last two is "e" and "s".

Let's talk about an evidence timeline to protect yourself at work. What do I mean when I say an evidence timeline? So really this is just a chronology, it's just a list of things that happened and when. It is basically taking those contemporaneous note, plus any evidence of things that happened and putting them together in a timeline. So here is an example of an evidence timeline in Valla. It is if you want to build them. You can see the contemporaneous notes you can paste in and attach any documents relevant to that particular case.

I spoke to someone just the other day who was asked to put products out on the shelves that were past their sell-by date and new dates had been put over the top. They took a lot of photos, that is evidence, and that is something you will put in your evidence timeline. That's what an evidence timeline is. It is also super easy if you to use Valla, everyone gets a special email address where you can forward everything in, and it automatically uploads it, because it's hard to keep track of all these things especially if you have photos on your phone. Why is this important? Well, like the person who is being asked to put those product on the shelves, you will have the receipts.

You need to know that you have some proof if someone tries to lie. And I'm very sorry to say I help people deal with their employers every single day. Some employers do lie, and so the more receipts you can have, the better. It also means that having that timeline laid out means that when you use the internal processes, your life is going to be so much easier. So the first thing that you will do if you raise a grievance, they will say what happened and when? If you've already got your timeline, you can say, no problem, here you go, then you pass that over, and again, showing your employer that you know what is up, that you're preparing a good case, that they need to take you seriously and get this issue resolved.

Finally, it will save you money. So, if you do have to get legal later on, if you've got all of this information organised, in a nice timeline with contemporaneous notes, if you need to get a lawyer to review your case, then sharing all of that with them is going to save you money because it means that the lawyer needs less time to actually review what is going on. So it is a good idea to protect yourself, to keep things just in a quick timeline.

All right, final bit, let's talk about your support system. Now, it is really useful to think about who am I going to call if everything starts to go wrong now? Even if you only think about it in the two minutes that we talk about it here, it's going to help.

So when I talk about support systems, I mean not just your friends and family, but who could you call? What could you actually do if something like this happened? What options are out there and available to you? So we are talking about pro bono centres, advice organisations, things like that. So, it is very useful, people kind of often forget about friends and family, aren't just useful to moan to, because they are very useful for that, but also having someone come with you to some of these meetings, especially those internal meetings around grievances, and things like that, ask them to take those.

Having someone else take notes for you is such a great thing to do. You're often very stressed in these situations, you're not quite sure what you said that you would do, and everything else, get them to take the notes for you. It really helps. Advice organisations, you will know about ACAS, there is also citizen's advice, and specific charities related to the problem you have -- for example, maternity discrimination, Pregnant Then Screwed. If you live near a university typically there's a great law clinic there which can help you. Never be afraid to email the local firms around you. They never all of their pro bono time they're supposed to use. They're always looking for a good excuse to do pro bono stuff so they can tick that box. Never be shy about asking.

Finally, if you have a union, my goodness, use your union. If you have an employee assistance programme that gives you me legal support and psychological support, so valuable. So valuable. Just remember: HR they are the personification of that machine that is trying to reduce reputational and legal risk. Help them do that. Help them do that by reaching a settlement.

Okay. That is me, just a quick reminder to know your lines when things become a nightmare, and also you have more power than you think, and I am cheering you on. And if you ever want to talk, I'm TikTok at and happy to answer questions there as well as right now.