The Apprentice analysed…

The Apprentice analysed...Each week we watch as Sir Alan Sugar yells ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’ at one of The Apprentice wannabes.

More deliciously salacious is watching these wannabes trying to make the most of Sir Alan’s tasks. With only one six-figure salary on offer the contestants declare all out war to get their hands on the prize.

Inevitably, this raises questions about the ethics used by some in the reality programme. Our expert panel of employment lawyers disucss the legal issues raised in this show.

22 May 2008: What happened this week…

The mighty Sir Alan sent the wannabes into the cutthroat world of advertising to create and promote a new brand of tissues. This involved creating a TV and print ad, and pitching to advertising agency Oglivy.

Team Alpha, led by Alex ‘bed hair’ Wotherspoon, brainstorm names like “Snot” in front of an exasperated Lucinda, who ends up shrugging off her vicar’s wife persona in a tirade about Alex and Lee’s “crap” design for the tissue box.

Meanwhile team Renaissance, led by Raef – TM Lewin’s best customer – got artistic with their advert, and assisted by Claire’s background as a beauty buyer, managed to deliver a good pitch to the ad execs.

However after entertaining us for weeks with his gentle buffoonery, it was still Raef who received Sir Alan’s chop. “Thank you Sir Alan,” he replied, gracious to the end.

Harender Dahia, Dawsons

Another team shuffle this week, as Claire and Raef were moved to Renaissance and Alex was shifted to Alpha.

Alex is designated project manager of Alpha, while Raef gets the top job at Renaissance, in spite of Michael’s indication last week that he wanted the job to prove himself. Is this because Sir Alan is keen to get rid of posh boy Raef and is trying to protect his favourite? What objective criteria does Sir Alan actually use to select his project leaders?

Raef and Michael set about working on the artistic direction of their advert, although at one point it felt like Michael was auditioning for a part on an Andrew Lloyd-Webber reality show.

Had the boys spent less time singing and more time doing their homework, they might have appreciated that: (i) Sian Lloyd was not the “wholesome mother figure” for which they were looking, but rather a singleton weather girl who had never worked with children; and (ii) what Sir Alan really wanted was a song and dance about the antibacterial-ity of their two-ply wares.

Alpha won the day with its garish “atishu” idea- clearly, to our untrained eyes, an idea not to be sniffed at. (Sorry). You couldn’t wipe the smile off Alex’s face with a Kleenex as his team had truly pulled victory out of the (tissue) box this time.

Some of the same issues in the workplace cropping up again:
• Is quirky Lucinda being bullied?

• Would Sir Alan get away with making those derogatory comments about Raef’s hair and general appearance?

• What has happened to the duty of trust and confidence between employer and employee, with virtually every candidate prepared to twist the truth (and the knife into their colleagues) when in the board room?

• Even the commentator came across as politically incorrect with his reference to “Raef’s girls”!

Julia Mingay, Withers

So it has ended in tears for the gentleman never without ‘Atischou’ in his jacket pocket: Lawrence of ARaefia is gone from our screens. Say it’s snot so!

But, I hope, the frustrated Spielberg will be back. Maybe not on “the stage” as he hopes, but perhaps with an art house advertising company specialising in ‘Dicaprioesque’ motion shots, celebrity cameos, sophistication, good taste… oh, and maybe um….some brand placement.

So is Raef Fellini free to do what he likes now he’s been given the sack? Not necessarily. He should check his Apprentice contract for any restrictions that seek to limit the scope of his future business activities.

Knowing Margaret, these will exemplify the golden rule that restrictive covenants are only enforceable if they go no further than what is reasonably necessary to protect the business’s legitimate proprietary interests.

And if there’s nothing on paper, Raef is free to do what he likes, except that he may still be bound by a common law duty of confidentiality protecting Sir Alan’s -and possibly the BBC’s – confidential information.

If Raef breaches this duty, he could face an injunction or a claim for damages. So it seems we may never know for sure about those alleged out-takes (mentioned in ‘You’re Fired!’) where Michael reminds Sir Alan of “the incriminating photos” he has…and mysteriously slips through into another episode.

Hannah Ford, Stevens & Bolton

Football fans missed the real drama this week as the Apprentice tissue-touting challenge played out like a Shakespearian tragedy.

The few people who were not glued to the Luzhniki stadium saw the honourable Raef fall on his sword as his creative juices overflowed. Shakespeare would be incomplete without irony.

Cue the spectacle of washed-up weathergirl Sian Lloyd, still moist-eyed from being chucked for a Cheeky Girl, forced to portray a wholesome mother-figure in Renaissance’s ill-fated advert. Raef and Michael left the crucial brand shot on the cutting room floor in favour of Sian’s sunny smile. This allowed Sir Alan a moment of pure dramatic indulgence as he pulled the trapdoor and they failed the task despite an otherwise seamless performance.

However the real tragedy was the fact that the female members of both teams, who arguably had the most to offer in terms of creativity and expertise, were sidelined, shouted down or pigeonholed by their male counterparts. A theme which the EHRC suggest is prevalent in the UK workplace today.

The treacherous Sophocoles escaped the guillotine again by disregarding Raef’s cries for “solidarity, camaraderie and truth” in the boardroom. Words never heard before in the Bridge St Café…

Alan Nicholson, McGrigors

Sex. He asks them to sell tissues, and somehow it boils down to sex. Well, gender and sexual orientation.

The programme kicked off with the revelation that Michael and Raef have both been in Guys and Dolls. A few show tunes and a disturbing Fagin impression later, we got to this week’s employment law issue: “Behind every successful man is a very successful woman” announced Claire, apparently claiming to be in the latter category.

The gender pay gap in London is reportedly about 25%, and only 11% of the capital’s company directors are female. Surely Claire is destined to close that gap with eureka moments like a range of tissues aimed at the niche market of Girls Aloud. Perhaps your advert was right Claire – you say it best when you say nothing at all.

Now, Lee McQueen may sound a bit like Rocky after ten rounds with Ivan Drago, but he does do his market research. “The highest demographics for the buying of facial tissues are the female genre.” A nervous pitch concluded with “I love you Adrian”.

But alas it was Raef who found himself on the wrong end of an automatically unfair dismissal this week. Of the seven little workers vying for the job, Sneezy was the downfall of Sleepy Raef, while Grumpy, Dopey, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch fight on.

Eleanor Jennings, Russell Jones & Walker

So, it was death by tissues for unlucky Raef. You could say that the antibacterial tissues wiped the smile off Raef’s face! But enough with the tissue jokes…

So on Alex’s team it was the boys club against Lucinda, who was shoved off to suburbia to find a semi for filming, while the boys tried hard but failed to find their artistic side.

Lucinda wanted to sell Atishu using the ‘shock value’ of a homosexual couple. Alex displayed some disappointingly homophobic attitudes – he wouldn’t want to buy the tissues as he’d be reminded of the “gay advert”. Are the tissues the victim of sexual orientation discrimination by association?

Alex and Lee led us back to pre SDA 1975 times by focusing the advert at the “mother community” of nose wipers with loads of sexism and gender stereotyping. But the sickly ad won it for Alpha.

Please click here to see what the bloggers had to say last week.