Thursday, 13 December 2018 16:59

If Christmas Were a Business

Like some of our clients, Santa Claus has a very erratic work schedule that is highly seasonal. Consequently, he needs to ensure that the terms and worker status for both Reindeer and Elves is properly applied to avoid ending up with an Employment Tribunal claim.

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 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 only real choice is to offer his reindeer a very generous 364 days holiday per year.

As far as the elves are concerned, Santa most probably has a core team of elves making toys to meet anticipated demand. As Christmas approaches he will need to make an assessment of how many children have been naughty and nice and whether an increase in production is required. This may lead to Santa having to take on more elves to meet demand.

He could take on extra elves on temporary or fixed term contracts and could do this either directly or through an employment agency. Taking on (s)elf employed workers could also be an option. Santa may prefer the authority that employer status gives him but he should remember that employees have access to full benefits from day one such as sick pay.

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.

Employer status also 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 such as Pimlico Plumbers, Uber and Deliveroo. If self-employed elves make a claim that they should actually hold employed status because they are provided with uniform and 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.

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 2019, as is the employer contribution for auto-enrolment pensions. He may also find that he has to re-enrol any elves and reindeer who opted out of auto enrolment first time round.

We don’t usually get many enquiries regarding elves and reindeer but if you do have an issue please contact us on 01452 331331 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Otherwise, have a very merry Christmas.


Read 500 times Last modified on Friday, 14 December 2018 10:22


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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