The Apprentice analysed…

The last episode of The Apprentice saw a gang of former contestants return to help Kate and Yasmina with their final task – to design and market a new brand of chocolates.

Kate looked to be the frontrunner when Yasmina’s team created an almost inedible sweet, but her place looked less secure when she overpriced the product.

Ultimately, Sir Alan chose to  employ Yasmina. Here, our panel of employment lawyers give their views on the employment issues thrown up in the episode.

By Alan Nicholson, senior associate at McGrigors

Well, I’m shocked.  In the biggest reality TV upset since last Saturday, Kate was pipped to the winning post by Yasmina.   And Sir Alan’s employment lawyers have a growing to-do list:

1 Draft formal offer and contract for Yasmina (making clear that £100k is the gross salary)

2 Review Margaret’s resignation letter to check for potential constructive dismissal claim and brief HR for the exit interview from hell;

3 Advise on the implications of putting Yasmina’s restaurant staff at risk of redundancy;

4 Sift applications for series six and ensure Lorraine doesn’t get back in just by changing her accent; and

5 Prepare a guidance note on how to claim expenses in the unpaid governmental post of enterprise tsar.

An assortment of rejects returned to help the finalists succeed where they had failed.  But like Margaret we waited in vain for the explosion, as everyone came over all soft-centred.  Crikey, even Philip and Lorraine worked well together. 

Was Yasmina the right choice?  I don’t think so.  Kate stood out from the crowd as being articulate and professional, and I feel Yasmina jumped one place in the queue.  But I’m just an ordinary Alan, and Sir Alan has his own criteria.  Let’s hope he and Gordon Brown are better at spotting talent than Cowell, Holden and Morgan.

By Hannah Ford, solicitor at Stevens & Bolton

Cash conscious Yasmina rightly romped to victory with her cut-price shock chocs. In 2009 her budget brand business strategy was bang on the money. 

Week on week Yasmina has delivered by minimising cost and thereby maximising profit margin. Who could forget the aftertaste of her 200 per cent mark-up bruchetta, which had a team of lawyers retching into their napkins (while she counted the cash) or her Delboyesque foray into the TV shopping world, when she bulk-bought cheap as chips hair grips. By comparison Kate’s gold leaf jacket and Choc d’Amour ad campaign (and £13 Recommended Retail Price) were stuck in an eighties boom-time-warp.

Sir Alan’s final dilemma between the raw and unpolished Yasmina over near-perfect android Kate will be familiar to many employers who are toying with taking a punt post-interview. However, the reality outside of Willy Wonka’s factory is that most can’t afford to take the risk of being lumbered with a strawberry basil fondant.

Wasted finders fees, contractual costs and management time in restarting a recruitment process can mean the difference between making a profit and loss this year. Undoubtedly the UK workplace will be poorer as a result.

By Lisa Gillis, solicitor at Withers

Throughout this series The Apprentice has mirrored current affairs – candidates and politicians alike have engaged in blame shifting and tactical manoeuvring against a backdrop of problems with expenses (sandalwood in the former case).  Fittingly, as the show reached its climax, the two worlds converged, with both Sir Alan and his new apprentice being very publicly hired.

Perhaps it was the effect of his appointment or the Choc d’Amour, but Britain’s most belligerent boss lived up to his surname this week and seemed sweeter.  Agonising over his decision between Kate and Yasmina he even voiced concern for the fate of Yasmina’s employees.  While they will be relieved to hear their jobs are safe, perhaps information and consultation legislation should be amended to accommodate communications via television shows.

Ultimately, while Kate’s polished professionalism was impressive, Sir Alan followed his gut instinct (Lorraine would be proud) and opted for the innovative, cost-conscious Yasmina, who he felt had more business instinct.   Despite the fact that Sir Alan may need to provide some training in the basics of company accounting, as a business decision, I think he got it right.

Yasmina’s hire fell within the band of reasonable responses, while the fact that both finalists were 27-year-old women rather curtails the scope for Kate to argue the outcome was discriminatory.

I just hope the potential Lord Sugar has enough time to train his new apprentice.

By Rachel Harfield, solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker

The thing I like about the final of The Apprentice is that you get to see the losing candidates again and realise that nothing has changed.  Take last night:

Phillip – Still delusional in thinking that soon the nation will realise that Pants Man was a good idea. Was he actually impersonating Pants Man in the dance sequence launching Cocoa Electric?  I am increasingly of the view that what is needed is not a law to protect his metrosexual rights, but more to protect the less favourable treatment of those impersonating doomed superheroes.

Ben –  Still doggedly pursing the mantra that “sex sells” (remember the sports equipment task?).  Let loose who knows where he would have taken Kate’s idea of a chest of drawers.

Debra – Bluntly observing that the Intimate chocolate box looked like something to do with feminine hygiene.

So Yasmina won, despite giving Lord Sugar’s insurers a moment of concern about facing claims from the actors recklessly exposed to those strawberry and basil chocolates.  As a restaurateur will she be presented with a whole time and attention clause in her contract?

Roll on next year, which is already provoking interest.  Lord Sugar is particularly keen for those facing redundancy to consider applying and by that time will he be able to benefit from the positive action tools within the draft Equality Bill? Finally, farewell to Margaret who leaves us to pursue her PhD in papyrology (its all Greek to me).