WED ASKs – Elaine Banton

Elaine is a highly motivated employment, equalities and human rights barrister, speaker and writer. Called to the Bar and practising since 1996, with a number of reported cases, Elaine represents both Claimants and Respondents in long-running multi-strand discrimination matters and advises public bodies on high-level strategic/policy matters such as the TUPE consequences of various contracting arrangements and on equality issues such as equal pay/harmonisation. Elaine regularly appears in high-value and complex trials by private companies, public sector bodies, charities and individuals. Appearing at all levels of tribunals and courts, Elaine’s practice also includes disciplinary, regulatory, sports law, harassment and stress at work claims.

Elaine speaks and writes regularly on her specialist areas of the law for various practice publications and press and is co-author of the chapter on Human Rights and Employment Law for Tolley’s Employment Law.

In 2009 Elaine was named a ‘Pro Bono Hero for 2009′ by the Attorney General’s Office.

Barrister of the Year Finalist of the First 100 Years, Inspirational Women of the Year Awards 2019

Elaine has been involved in the promotion of equalities both within her field of practice and in her committee and trustee work. Elaine was a School Governor at Lauriston Primary School for 12 years and Treasurer of the Discrimination Law Association for 6 years. From 2011 to 2014 Elaine was a Barrister member of the Bar Standards Board’s Complaints Committee. Elaine is a long-standing member of the Bar Council’s Equality Diversity and Social Mobility Committee and Co-Chairs the Bar Council’s EDSM Committee. Elaine is also Head of 7BR’s Employment Team and EDSM Committee. Elaine is a member of the Temple Women’s Forum Committee. Elaine was elected a Bencher at Middle Temple in March 2019.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role?

I am an experienced barrister practising in employment, equality, discrimination and human rights. When my parents divorced and as the daughter of a single-parent nurse, I grew up with humble beginnings in Hackney but determined when aged 7 to become a barrister. This may have been influenced by what I noticed around me on the estate – a sense of need for social justice which inspired me. 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was extremely determined and persevered through manifold challenges

 I’ve always wanted to appear in the highest courts on substantial cases, but until more recently, did not plan my career as such.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career, and how have they influenced your leadership style?

To be prepared, to be clear on what you want to achieve and how to do so. Also to persist. 

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes and each of those challenges have taught me something, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time. 

How did you persevere through the tough times?

Despite facing numerous challenges, overcoming obstacles, such as rejection, builds a strength and resilience which I can attest, will serve you well during your career. Lean into your support networks and mentors who can encourage and energise you. 

What has been your most significant achievement to date?

Difficult to say, a landmark Court of Appeal decision 8 weeks after the birth of my second son was immense. 

This year being asked to open the oral evidence in Parliament to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in the Inquiry into Human Rights at Work, alongside esteemed academics, was an honour. Also being recognised as the Times Lawyer of the Week this year as a result of the pre dismissal remedy judgment of £300k in the long-running litigation involving a retrial of sex discrimination, harassment and maternity claims in Rajput v Commerzbank AG. I effectively won this case twice over the course of 7 years against a global investment bank, without the assistance of a solicitor, aainst a fleet of lawyers. It was a herculean effort by myself and client and the case was followed throughout by the likes of FT, Bloomberg and Reuters. 

The international facets and richness of my work at the Bar has undoubtedly led me to a variety of interesting and engaging people and this Summer I also had the pleasure of meeting Jill Biden.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Pay women with parity and fully recognise their talents and contributions equally. 

What factors impact a woman’s ability to lead others?

Nothing intrinsically, perhaps the perceptions of others. Women are often more likely to be, emotionally intelligent, empathetic leaders that engender the best in their teams. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Believe in yourself and persist.

What is your next challenge, and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To keep rising upwards and lifting as I climb. 

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