Week one: The Apprentice analysed…

He’s back. Sir Alan and his wannabe apprentices returned to our screens last night for some back-to-basics style business. And who was first to get the chop? Law graduate Anita Shah.

He’s back. Sir Alan and his wannabe apprentices returned to our screens last night for some back-to-basics style business. And who was first to get the chop? Law graduate Anita Shah.
There’s a bit of a theme developing – the first person to be shown the door last year was also a lawyer, trainee barrister Nicholas De Lacy-Brown.

In last night’s episode the contestants were asked to make a profit from washing cars. Simple, surely?

Team Ignite (the girls) made a profit but spent too much money on cleaning tools.

Team Empire (the boys) had a bad start after taking an hour and a half to clean one car. In the end they pulled together to achieve the largest profit of the night.

This is just the beginning of a 12-week interview process that will bring the usual ego clashes, tantrums and tears. It will also highlight numerous employment issues as Sir Alan is forced to find faults worth firing over on a weekly basis.

Here three employment lawyers discuss Sir Alan’s tactics and the legal issues highlighted in The Apprentice.

Discrimination protection?

By Rachel Harfield, associate at Russell Jones & Walker

Another year and another lawyer fired in week one. Do lawyers need protection from discrimination at the hands of Sir Alan?

The girls of Ignite failed to light Sir Elton, sorry Sir Alan’s, ‘candle in the wind’. Even placid Nick threatened them with a “spanking” in the boardroom.

Would he have said the same about Emperor Howard and his male team?

Sir Alan promised that this year’s contestants would be “very bright and high calibre”. Mind you, he also commented that they are either very clever or very dumb. Doubts must arise when candidates can’t recognise a feather duster, don’t think to car doors before spraying them with water and can’t distinguish a hose from a suduko puzzle. The cocktail waiters may have shown the most flair.

Does that mean that we again have candidates who have misrepresented their skills on their CVs? It certainly seems that Sir Alan thought this of Anita and that felt this was grounds for her summary dismissal. He’ll be sleeping easily at present, however, as she gave him 10 years in which to regret his decision.

Finally, should Sir Alan have allowed Adam Freeman (who was such a “quick thinker” he never even made it into the show) flexible working for his childcare commitments?

A rainbow of skills?

By Hannah Ford, associate in the employment and pensions team at Stevens & Bolton.

Turning a profit in a recession can be a dirty business and last night Sir Alan’s cocky contenders showed us why.
Suitcases packed and designer suits fresh out the pack, the newbies gambolled into the boardroom like spring lambs to the slaughter.

Sir Alan put them at their ease with his cheery greeting: “One guy’s already bottled it. Pressure. Simple as”.

Ex-lawyer Anita immediately missed a trick in failing to roll off the recent High Court decision of Tullet Prebon Group Limited v Ghaleb El-Hajjali.

There, a rejected prospective employer successfully enforced a “no show” clause and recovered liquidated damages from a new recruit, who failed to turn up.

In a different universe, Sir Alan could have stung his fickle flightee for a hefty £6 in lost shoe shine profits. However, it was not to be and despite Anita’s self-professed “rainbow of skills” she turned out to be more Bungle than Ruth Badger.

In these turbulent economic times, it is comforting to know that in Sugar’s workplace little has changed. The girls’ team will always squander their first hour bickering over duff team-names, the brashest candidates will never step up to be team leader and the ex-lawyer will always get the first cab ride home.

Good, clean fun?

By Lisa Gillis, solicitor in the employment team at Withers

Good, clean fun? Not quite.

Despite the soap suds and (apparently difficult to identify) feather dusters, the candidates were as polished as the shoes they shined at shirking responsibility and passing the blame.

Only one episode into this years’ Apprentice and we’ve already been treated to some essential ‘Apprentice’ action – including tears in the boardroom and a nice dose of sexism (swiftly followed by the classic follow-up – “not that I’m sexist…”). Once again, the candidate from the legal world (Anita) fared poorly in Sir Alan’s world, being cast out at the first opportunity.

If there was a piece of legislation making discrimination against lawyers unlawful (we wish…), Anita might be tempted to bring a claim – although, in truth, her tactics in the boardroom were probably the real cause of her downfall (sorry Anita, one never likes to show lack of support for fellow lawyers…).

Anita can at least take comfort in the fact that, officially, someone else left first – one candidate didn’t even make it to the doors of the boardroom.

Citing family reasons Adam Freeman pulled out of the show at the last minute, raising age old questions about how to manage the work-life balance. I wonder how Sir Alan would have responded if he had submitted a flexible working request…

So… good, clean fun to look forward to? Unlikely. Let the dirty tactics commence!