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Published 19 December 2018
Although normally Santa's most stressful time of year, the arrival of this Christmas season has come as something of a relief to him. The last 12 months have brought several legal difficulties, which the Grotto's legal team has had to address.
First, there was the implementation of the GDPR. Lapland, being part of Finland, lies within the EU and the Grotto's compliance team has been hard at work reviewing existing policies and practices. Of paramount concern has been to ensure the security of the Naughty List, and Santa has been busy introducing encryption and improving the security of his igloo data centre. Santa would suffer terrible reputational damage if the names of all the world's naughty children were to be released into the public domain, either by accident or through the actions of an elf with a grudge. Santa has been extra nice to his elves this year as he may be vicariously liable to pay damages to the children on the lists if a disgruntled elf stole a list and put it on the internet.
In addition, the compliance elves have had to introduce a policy of notifying children in advance that Santa carries out profiling and automated decision-making based on reports of whether children have been naughty or nice in order to decide what present they receive. They have also updated their data retention policies to ensure that previous years' naughty lists are deleted. All the elves have had to undergo GDPR training and have been warned as to the consequences of mixing up name tags on children's presents. Santa is also frantically amending his internal policies, in anticipation of receiving a deluge of requests from naughty children, exercising their right to be forgotten.
This year also saw the completion of a long-running review of the employment status of Santa's workforce. The previous elf-employment model was considered no longer sustainable in the light of recent 'gig economy' cases. However, it has been an expensive and time-consuming process to regularise his helpers' employment status and settle outstanding holiday pay claims.
Granting new employment rights to his elves has also presented logistical problems for Santa's rota planning over Christmas, involving protracted negotiations with the newly-recognised trade union, DASHER (the Distinguished Association of Santa's Helpers, Elves and Reindeer), concerning working hours and rest breaks.
The use of the elf-employment model to produce the toys delivered as part of Santa's business activity, the elves being under his control and engaged by him to manufacture toys, has not prevented his facing liability for poor workmanship where defective toys cause injury to children on Christmas morning; after a busy few months, Santa is hoping that the toys he will deliver this year are defect-free.
However, in a significant victory for Santa, DASHER conceded that their members were "special case" workers for working time purposes and that they were engaged in activities involving the need for continuity of service or production. Crucially, this means that they are exempt from restrictions regarding night work and rest breaks that would otherwise have severely hampered Santa's ability to operate non-stop on Christmas Eve.
The price to pay for this concession was the granting of a lengthy period of compensatory rest early in the New Year and some additional holiday entitlement. But, threatened with the possibility of industrial action, Santa considered it a price worth paying to ensure no disruption to Christmas.
Santa also believes that the extra time off will be beneficial to his workers' mental health as he has been increasingly concerned at how fatigued his elves became after the Christmas rush was over.
Finally, Santa is hoping that, by next Christmas, Brexit negotiations will have reached a satisfactory conclusion. His ability to move seamlessly in and out of UK airspace relies upon the existing framework of EU aviation treaties, the UK's participation in which is threatened by a 'no deal' scenario.
But that is next year's problem. For now, Santa is pleased to be putting 2018 behind him and looking forward to a well-earned rest after Christmas.
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