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From Babysitter to Brand Manager: Becoming Jermain Defoe’s Personal Assistant

Keystone’s Brian Palmer examines the challenges faced by those on both sides of the recruitment coin

Last week saw the Recruiting Times publish news of Jermain Defoe’s recent job advert, boasting of offering a ‘unique employment opportunity’. “Sunderland striker Jermaine Defoe’s plea for a new Personal Assistant (PA) went viral after he placed an advert on, listing 45 ever-more demanding tasks.” The story caused much debate over the demands influential people place upon their personal help staff.

As a response, Keystone’s Brian Palmer examines the challenges faced by those on both sides of the recruitment coin.

The original article reports that the advertisement offers, a £60,000 salary – “the equivalent of a single week’s wages for the former England player… for running dry cleaning errands and planning Defoe’s designer wardrobe…” However, as the story progresses, it soon becomes clear that Mr. Defoe is expecting far more than someone simply to manage his diary.

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Whilst some of the duties listed in the advert seem more than fair – Mr. Defoe’s wish list perhaps seems to err on the side of overly demanding when it requests that the successful candidate also looks after managing and organising not only Defoe but also his mother, stepfather, sister and nephew. The PA is also expected to be on call 24/7.

Finally, the PA would have to help to “create a global brand for the Jermain Defoe name”, essentially becoming a marketer, digital designer and PR guru all in one.

For the individual who chooses to take on such an arduous role, the real danger lies in surrendering themselves to someone that answers to himself and only himself. When working so closely with the rich and famous, there’s no such thing as a designated HR department to monitor fair conduct and help out when things go wrong.

So what are the risks to taking on a job such as this and how can you ensure that you’re protected?

The key point for both parties is to try to be fair and equitable and to ensure that the contract terms are fully understood, particularly with regard to detailed job descriptions. Both parties will need to be clear as to working hours, holidays and sickness provisions. Typically such PAs become an intrinsic and near indispensible part of the employing individual’s family life. Having them take their own holiday and falling ill at times when the family may have its greatest need can be a source of conflict.

The employee is entitled to have a written employment contract, be given payslips, not work more than the maximum hours allowed per week and to get statutory maternity and sick pay as well as paid holiday.

While an employee may complain to an Employment Tribunal if unfairly dismissed, after 2 years’ employment, in reality bringing a public claim against a high profile individual is likely to be the end of an individual’s career as an executive PA. Therefore, seeking to establish clear ground rules with the employer, while demonstrating flexibility as far as possible, is probably the best approach to a successful role. Ultimately, the personal chemistry between the celebrity and the PA will most likely determine the success or otherwise of the role.

From the celebrity employer’s perspective, as well as ensuring the employee’s entitlements set out above, the employer must also ensure that the PA is entitled to work in the UK; put in place employer’s liability insurance; register as an employer and set up and run payroll as well as paying the employee’s National Insurance and income tax contributions and statutory benefits.

Written terms should also include a probationary period, during which the employer may assess the PA and easily and swiftly terminate the employment if matters do not work out.

As last week’s article explains, the advert stresses that the chosen candidate, “must maintain the highest level of confidentiality in order to assist the manager.”   As a person in the public eye, one of your biggest prerequisites will be that your employee treats their role and personal details surrounding your life with the utmost discretion. To ensure that private information about you remains private, it is critical to include in the contract of employment well drafted restrictions upon the employee protecting your confidentiality both during and, perhaps more importantly, after employment.

Such restrictions will act as a disincentive to the employee to air family secrets or embarrassing facts in public. Further, such contractual protection will help the celebrity in seeking an injunction against any media organisations planning to publish such family details.

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