Week Eight: The Apprentice analysed…

Week 8 of The Apprentice and the wannabes were Margate bound. The task? To revamp the town’s image so it can become a tourist hotspot once again.

So far so good. One team chose to rebrand the town for a gay audience while the other decide to market Margate to families.

Sir Alan was less than impressed with Mona’s performance and she was duly fired.

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

By Hugh More, solicitor in the employment team at Withers

This time last year, the teams were in sunny Marrakech. This year, it’s foggy Margate. What a credit-crunch climbdown, you might think. Which is exactly the perception the wannabes were hoping to challenge with their rebranding of the Kent seaside town.

Indeed, the episode was an interesting exercise in stereotyping. Yasmina’s Ignite targeted hard-working families, with a professional looking campaign populated by and aimed at 2.4 children (and only mildly hobbled by Lorraine – Yasmina was not the first of Lorraine’s managers to reflect that there’s a difference between managing strong personalities and ‘crazy people’).

Meanwhile, Empire focused on the gay market: James thought ‘they’ spend more and holiday more than other demographics. Kent-dweller Mona didn’t think this was the right target audience for her county: maybe in other areas, but she didn’t think “it” (what?) was a big thing in Kent.

In this, she overlooked one of the most practical lessons of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations – don’t make assumptions (and particularly not silly assumptions). Sure enough, when she went in search of Kentish gay people, she found some – remarkable.

Sir Alan criticised Mona for not voicing more opinions (although on the basis of those she did offer, maybe we should count ourselves lucky) and she was shown the door.

Surely thunder-faced Deborah can’t be far behind her, though: if she lost the trust and confidence of her ad agency by lying to them, just think what her bulldozer management style is doing to that poor team of hers.

By Adam Landy, associate in the employment team at Stevens & Bolton

Let’s face it, there was only ever going to be one winner in the fight between mild-mannered Howard and dictator Debra to take the reins of Empire. She wasted no time in bullying Howard into the role of her number two.

Meanwhile, Empire (led by ‘Yazz’) showed that the only way is up, targeting the family market with the slogan ‘See Margate through children’s eyes’.  They then proceeded to produce a poster without a child in sight, which cleverly showed “more of the sea and less of Margate”.

Empire, tried to put the ‘gay’ into Margate with the team resolute that ‘where the gay community goes, everyone soon follows’.  Cut to an empty gay bar later (save a much pestered transsexual) and they were soon Danny La Ruing their decision.

Mona was the only team member who objected to the gay theme.  Her obvious discomfort with the pink pound approach, highlighted how sexual orientation discrimination can often be more subtle than a raging office homophobe. 

By Harriet Bowtell, solicitor in the employment team at Russell Jones & Walker

This week’s apprentices were put to the challenge of re-branding the “tired” and “faded” seaside town of Margate (not my words – I love Margate) into something cool.

Empire, led by dastardly Debra decided that Margayte was their target market, the idea seemingly born from James’s proclamation that the gay people go on holiday the most and spend the most money.  Do I see another claim for sexual orientation harassment from Mr English (when the Equality Bill becomes law, of course) for people teasing him for being gay (even though he’s not) because he likes to travel and has a bit of spare cash?

The girls in Ignite had some fun getting male models to bare their torsos when being auditioned for the team’s ‘family’ theme – ‘Margate through children’s’ eyes’. I guess having a six-pack could be a genuine occupational requirement for a model, but how many children see a six-pack on their dad?

It was Mona who showed her true colours this week, although not a rainbow flag of colour, when interviewing a transsexual (or is that someone “in-transit”, Mona?) and asking whether s/he was a man or a woman.

She may never have seen a gay or transgender person before, but could her behaviour be grounds for a claim of harassment?

Alan Nicholson, senior associate in McGrigors’ employment team

In 1982, Chas & Dave said “you can keep the Costa Brava and all that palava; I’d rather have me a day down Margate”.  In 2009, all that excellent marketing work was undone in one fell swoop by eight of Britain’s brightest young business talents.

Empire’s extensive research revealed that gay people spend more money, go on more holidays, and live in Manchester, Brighton or London.  Together with Mona’s gender reassignment encounter, this may have given Howard grounds for complaint under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, but he kept his cool.

Yasmina lost hers when “managing crazy people”.  For the eighth consecutive week, Lorraine’s instincts had malfunctioned – she instinctively felt it appropriate to speak.  But in Philip’s absence, she eventually managed to pull in the same direction as the rest of her team.

Meanwhile, James tried to pull Mona in the direction of the pub exit.  The two were cut adrift by manager Debra, who referred to them as “the other team”.

However, it wasn’t this dereliction of management responsibilities or even her appalling time management that saw Debra on the end of a verbal warning this week.  Instead Sir Alan criticised her for being too loud and bossy, before going on to loudly boss Mona out of his boardroom and onto the first bus back to Margate.