“Pale, stale, male” advertising executives claim that they are victims of discrimination

Think of the TV series Mad Men and you will conjure up the image of high-flying testosterone filled salesmen living up to almost every imaginable stereotype of a world that was and to some extent still is. However, the world is definitely changing, no more so than in 2018, with the burgeoning #MeToo movement, and a sense that radical action is needed to achieve real equality in the workplace. However, and stick with me on this one, is there a tipping point beyond which targeting and redress can be taken too far?

J Walter Thompson (now generally referred to as JWT) is an enormous global advertising agency and widely thought to be the inspiration for Mad Men. News has emerged over the last few weeks of something of a putsch against what might be regarded, to coin a phrase, as its pale, stale, male employees.

As reported in The Times (behind the paywall), the groundwork for what was coming could be detected when JWT’s creative director, Jo Wallace (introducing herself as a gay woman), spoke at a diversity conference in May about her determination to “obliterate” its reputation as and agency full of white, privileged, straight, British men. She pledged to address a “horrible” median gender pay gap of 44.7%, saying that the disparity in pay put: 

…a rocket up the arse of all the diversity plans at JWT

Jo Wallace, creative director, JWT

Unsurprisingly, some of those who appeared to be in Ms Wallace’s firing line were concerned about their futures at JWT in light of what had been said. The approached the agency’s HR department and, according to a report in Campaign magazine, were sacked days later. Having taken legal advice, they are now reported to be bringing discrimination claims based on gender, race, nationality and sexuality. How is that possible, you might ask?

New workplace reforms announced – take note of the requirements

At long last the Government has announced its response to the Matthew Taylor report on modern working practices, published in July 2017. Mr Taylor is a former aide to Tony Blair and is currently the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts. He was charged by the previous Conservative government with reviewing employment law practices, with a particular emphasis on the emergence of the “gig economy”, characterised by zero hours contracts. The Government’s response and recommendations in the “Good Work Plan“, a 62 page detailed response which, commendably, lists all 53 recommendations in the Taylor Report and provides itemised responses

According to the BBC, significant changes will take effect from Monday 24 December, including an entitlement to a written statement for all workers (not just employees) of terms and conditions from the first day of a person commencing work (currently within two months). However, I am not sure that this is correct since secondary legislation will be required and, given the Government’s busy schedule, I can’t see it being fitted in in the near future. However, it makes sense to prepare for the changes and change procedures, where necessary to do so, as soon as possible.

It is no surprise that zero hours contracts have not been banned. When being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week Mr Taylor cited the example of the trial run by McDonalds (referred to in my earlier blog posts on the topic) in which employees were offered the choice of fixed hours or zero hours contracts. Only 20% took the fixed hours option, thereby demonstrating that zero hours contracts do work for some people.

Among other notable accepted proposals, as matters stand, a break in service of one week does not affect the calculation of the qualifying period for continuous service. In future, breaks of up to four weeks will be disregarded.

Additional information in the form of a Key Facts Page will be provided to all agency workers at the start of each contract, setting out their contractual and employment rights, so that they are clearly understood from the outset.

Significantly, written statements of terms of employment (to be issued to both employees and workers from day one). Additional information required to be provided includes:

Mourinho sacked: Liverpool FC turn Jose’s Christmas blue

So, the seemingly inevitable has happened.  Jose Mourinho has, after weeks of speculation, been sacked by Manchester United. The writing was largely on the wall, of course, given Jose’s continuing propensity to flick between extreme defensiveness and pettiness during press conferences, his verbal attacks on his players and the side’s consistently poor performances under his stewardship.

However, before the Liverpool FC game, the accepted wisdom was that Jose would see the season out (Louis Van Gaal-style) and then be dismissed at the end of the season. Naturally, given that Manchester United were so overwhelmingly outperformed in the derby game last weekend, it is perhaps not too surprising that the Manchester United board saw the need to take more immediate action.

Obviously, the situation with football manager contracts are usually different to ‘normal’ Contracts of Employment by way of being fixed-term (i.e. for a number of months or years) rather than rolling continuously until notice is given.  In this way, there will be the need for negotiations to end Jose’s Contract but, these things aside, he is immediately removed from his position as Manager.

For the purposes of this blog, let’s treat Jose as being in a ‘normal’ employee situation and see whether he would have fared any better.  So, hypothetically speaking, let’s say that Jose was a Production Manager in a warehouse for a company called Trafford Trailblazers and that the company produced various industrial items and delivered them to customers and let’s now consider what his recent actions would have meant within that more ‘regular’ role.