On Christmas morning, children all over the world rush downstairs to see if the man in the red suit has paid them a visit. Parents are filled with joy at the look on their children’s’ faces, while they open the gifts they’ve sought after all year.
However, there is of course one question on the mind of every child during this festive period: is Santa, as an employer of thousands of elves, truly complying with working time rules?
The EU Working Time Directive, from which the UK Working Time Regulations derive, applies to workers in the EU, which would include Lapland and therefore Santa’s workshop. The Working Time Directive puts a limit on the number of hours that workers, like Santa’s elves, can work each week. The regulations apply to all full-time and part-time elves, as well as most agency and freelance elves. They also apply to all non-magical UK workers too! These regulations state that:
Operations in Santa’s workshop are shrouded in secrecy, so it cannot be known if working practices are compliant with these rules. The elves have been known to unionise, and could bring claims in the employment tribunal if they thought their rights were being infringed, so hopefully the lack of such claims indicates Santa is indeed compliant!
There are some sectors where the regulations do not apply. While elves are usually employed in the important toy-building and sleigh-maintenance sector, workers may have to work more than 48 hours per week on average if they work in certain environments. These include:
What counts as work?
While we tend to think of elves spending their whole working day building model trains in the workshop, there are other tasks that count as work. These include:
Holiday entitlements are an area which can cause confusion when it comes to calculating payments for part-time employees. There are various online calculators which Santa and other employers can use to work out how many holidays their employees are entitled to. As a minimum under EU law, the elves are entitled to four weeks’ holiday and more if provided for by national law. Even the elves need a holiday from the very chilly North Pole sometimes! After Christmas, it is to be hoped they can take some well-earned rest.
As with all employers, we’d always advise Santa to give his elves regular reminders to take their holidays and to ensure they get the opportunity to take them.