Millions of children all across the globe are breathing a collective sigh of relief in the knowledge that, whilst we have all had to adapt to a “new normal” this year, Father Christmas WILL very much be making his deliveries as usual this Christmas.
Even for those of us in Tier 3, the UK Government has been abundantly clear that Santa and his Reindeer have the green light for their Christmas present delivery service this year. Phew!
Of course, there is always much speculation about how exactly he manages to do it. Travelling across vast global distances. Visiting each house with just the perfect present for each child. How does the sleigh carry all of the presents and still manage to fly at supersonic speed!? And how on earth, does he manage to complete the entire job in just a few hours between the chime of midnight and that early hour when excited children everywhere wake up to check whether he has been! He even manages to enjoy the odd mince pie and glass of sherry en-route.
Every year, there is talk of Time Travel and even, the theory of Relativity in action. But of course, everyone knows that the real answer is MAGIC!
However, as an Employment Lawyer, my chief concern is Employment Rights. As the Big Day approaches, I can’t help but find myself wondering whether Santa’s Christmas Eve shift is Working Time compliant? Has a proper risk assessment been completed for all of the dangers, from narrow chimneys to supersonic flight without a seatbelt. Even contemplating, what do the insurers say about being in charge of a flying sleigh after a good few thousand glasses of sherry!?
The Working Time Regulations date back to 1998. These provide the majority of employees and workers in the UK with a number of basic protections including a right not to have to work more than a 48 hour (average) working week for most workers, regular rest breaks and uninterrupted rest periods. How does it all work for Father Christmas and his Team!? This is the sort of stuff which could really keep me awake at night.
It does occur to me that potentially, Father Christmas may be self employed rather than having “worker” or “employee” status but don’t get me started on Employment Status, that’s a whole difficult issue in itself.
As for the elves, who assist Santa throughout the year in maintaining up to date lists of who wants which present, details of latest addresses and chimney specifications, as well as the making of or, perhaps these days, the sourcing of each present from a well known internet retailer named after a large river in South America, I would think it might be difficult to argue that they wouldn’t have at least “ worker” status and therefore, qualify for protection under the Working Time Regulations.
Of course, even employment lawyers need to enjoy a little downtime themselves sometimes and so, at Christmas I try my best to forget about the potential employment issues and sit back and enjoy my own tipple, whilst keeping an eye out for the sleigh in the clear and starry skies above. Like everyone else, I too listen out in the early hours for the sleigh bells which might signify his approach to our house.
Christmas is magic after all.