Week Nine: The Apprentice analysed…

Week 9 on The Apprentice and the candidates had to sell baby accessories at a trade show in London’s Earl’s Court.

Lorraine led team Ignite and chose to sell a padded toddler helmet and a travel pushchair.

As a member of team Empire, Ben chose to sell a home birthing pool and an expensive hand-made rocking horse.

Lorraine’s team racked up sales of more than £1,600 while Ben’s team made just £722. It was clear that Ben’s time was up.

Our panel of employment lawyers  give their views on the employment issues thrown up in the episode.

By Lisa Gillis, solicitor at Withers

Although both groupings have had problems with financial issues this week, it’s definitely easier to remove Apprentice candidates than Parliamentarians. 

For team Empire it was the issue of expense – specifically pricey rocking horses – rather than expenses that led to their demise.  However, unlike Parliament and real life workplaces, all that was required was a mere wave of Sir Alan’s finger and Ben was given his marching orders… 

Echoing the Rocky exit, Sir Alan’s removal of the baby of the remaining group involved consideration that the over-confident Ben had a lot of potential but was a ‘bit young and immature’.  Cue another age discrimination claim?

Still on the discrimination theme, do we need to introduce Parental Status Discrimination Legislation?  Sir Alan’s selection of team leaders on the basis that they were a ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ was rather worrying.

More worrying for Sir Alan, however, is probably the personalities of the remaining candidates.  Sir Alan’s concerns about ‘nice guy’ James and ‘ruthless’ Deborah highlighted the desire of organisations upon recruiting to both bring in talent and maintain a good working environment. Organisations want to ‘get it right’ particularly because, once hired, it generally requires more than a mere wave of a finger if they want to (lawfully) dismiss.

By Alan Nicholson, senior associate at McGrigors

There was indeed light at the end of the tunnel, but unfortunately for Ben it turned out to be a Sir Alan-shaped train.  Next stop the job centre; do not pass the Employment Tribunal; do not collect compensation for unfair dismissal.

The needle on our discrimination-ometer at McGrigors was soon in the red zone when team leaders were chosen on the basis of parental status.  It went off the scale when Kate urged a gay man to think like a pregnant woman.  And the short circuit caused by James’s lectures on breastfeeding and pelvic motion probably renders it beyond repair.

Much like the profit margins of the Bridge Café, which this week had only four customers ordering tea and sympathy.  If the owner is considering redundancies, he should avoid using Sir Alan’s subjective selection criteria.  Temperament, nature, truthfulness and business acumen were all examined, while James’s thin ice nearly cracked under the weight of Sir Alan’s observation that nice guys aren’t needed in tough times.

Debra’s toughness was almost her downfall, but “Britain’s most belligerent boss” bemoaned the “sheer belligerence” that saved her.  Whether this results in the unofficial industrial action predicted by James is doubtful, but at least my ‘Ben Must Go’ placard has been declared redundant.

By Adam Landy, associate at Stevens & Bolton

This week was all about performance management.  James confessed he was “walking on thin ice”, dodging the finger and getting away with a verbal warning last week.  Once chosen as project manager by Sir Alan, it seemed there was a good chance that a village would soon be reunited with its idiot.

Debra’s position was also ‘at risk’ after two previous final warnings.  When dealing with poor performance, employers should give employees a fair opportunity to improve.  For Sir Alan, though, one botched task is all the justification he needs to bullet someone, so the pressure was on.

James’ team fell at the first fence, taking a chance on £1,700 rocking-horses, based on the misconception that paying only a deposit would entice potential suitors.  However, they soon found that buyers were rarer than the wooden steed’s manure. 

In the boardroom, Sir Alan revealed his selection criteria – good temperament, truthfulness and business acumen, but then surprised everyone by showing Ben the door.  This smacked of age discrimination, Sir Alan opting to give the older, more experienced candidates a further final chance.

So, heading into the final furlong it seems Kate is out in front, but Howard could be the dark horse.