Thursday, 15 December 2022 16:34

If Christmas Was a Business

You might think that work at the North Pole is for the festive period only, and whilst some of Santa’s staff are definitely seasonal, toys need to be manufactured all year long to keep up with demand; especially now that we have a global population of 8 billion. Consequently, Santa needs to ensure that the employment terms for both Reindeer and Elves are properly applied. He’ll need to ensure that they have the correct worker status and there is no discrimination towards either group if he wants to avoid ending up with an Employment Tribunal claim.

For the Elves, Santa will most probably have a core team of elves making toys to meet anticipated demand. As Christmas approaches, he’ll need to assess how many children have been naughty and how many have been nice and adjust production accordingly. This may mean that Santa will have to take on more Elves to meet demand.

Santa could take on extra Elves on either temporary/casual or fixed term contracts and could do this directly as an employer, or through an employment agency. Taking on self-employed workers could also be an option.

Agency Elves have access to certain benefits immediately, such as access to parking, the staff canteen or crèche facilities and will gain rights to full benefits after 12 weeks in the same role. If Santa opts to engage self-employed elves on a contracted basis, whilst there are no employee rights to worry about, he still needs to be conscious of Health & Safety, HMRC issues like IR35 and discrimination.

By employing Elves and adding them to his payroll, the employer status means Santa can dictate when his employees take their holiday; so he is within his rights to order all employees to take their holidays together or within a certain time frame such as in the summer when there will be little impact on toy production.

Issues over employee status could cause Santa a problem as it has with companies in the past such as Uber and Deliveroo. If self-employed elves make a claim that they should actually hold employed status because they are provided with uniform, and are restricted from making toys for other organisations, he may end up with a bill for back-dated holiday pay. This could prove very costly and mean that we all end up with just a lump of coal for Christmas next year.

This year, Santa has been hit with a slew of flexible working requests and a number of his Elves have asked to work part time. Because he already has an arrangement to bring in extra staff to meet demand, he hasn’t been able to justify refusing these flexible requests as a transient workforce already forms part of his business practices.

He has however, been able to reject the ‘Work From Home’ requests from the workshop Elves, as they obviously need to come into the workplace to use the workshop facilities and tools to do their jobs. Whilst the administrator Elves, such as the child spelling interpreters, could do their jobs at home, Santa has rejected their WFH requests on the basis that it is not fair on those workers whose jobs make it unfeasible to work from home.

Santa will need to keep an eye on proposed Government legislation this year as flexible working requests are likely to become an employee right from day one which means that any new Elves who are taken on might immediately request to work part-time.

With just one evening’s work per year, the reindeer should really have zero-hours contracts as this would allow them to seek other work from other employers when Santa has nothing for them. The problem with this however is that there is no mutuality of contract, meaning the reindeer are not obliged to accept any work that is offered.

This could leave Santa in a pickle if the reindeer choose not to accept the one night’s work per year on Christmas eve that he offers and instead decide to stick to their off-season jobs of posing for photographs and being fattened up to provide dinner for hungry Icelandics.

Taking the reindeer on as self-employed workers gives rise to the same issues as the zero-hours contract option whereby they don’t have to accept the work. Santa’s can either contract the Reindeer to just one day per year or offer them a very generous 364 days holiday per year.

Prior to starting their shift, as they are effectively delivery crew, Santa might think it’s a good idea to run a drug and alcohol test on the reindeer. We recommend that he tests all reindeer to make sure that he can’t be accused of discrimination or victimisation and ensures that they reindeer are aware of his zero tolerance policy on this.

Finally, Santa needs to make sure he is compliant with his employer responsibilities regarding pay. The National Living and Minimum Wages are due to increase again from April 2023. He also needs to factor in his auto-enrolment pension contributions and there may be Elves and reindeer who opted out of auto enrolment first time round that need to be opted back in.

We’re sure that Santa complies with all of his responsibilities and that Christmas will go without a hitch. It’s a festive reminder however that HR and Employment Law are constantly changing and no employer is immune.

Have a very Merry Christmas and an excellent New Year. If you would like to discuss your HR and Employment Law requirements with us in 2023, please call us on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Read 846 times Last modified on Friday, 16 December 2022 12:27


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