Penguin Santa You know who’s having a low media presence this year? Santa Claus! I mean, just look at the Christmas adverts this year! Without naming names, the ‘biggest’ Christmas adverts this year involve a monster, a carrot and a toy factory. The only ‘big’ advert that sees the big, red man is one in which Paddington bear mistakes a burglar for Santa!

So, why the low media presence? Where is Santa?

On that front, I may be able to help. You see, Mr Claus is currently having some Employment Law and HR issues with his workforce and has been busy obtaining legal advice on what to do next. It’s a stressful time of year, particularly with less and less people believing in him (there seems to be a rumour going around that he isn’t real) and certain big rival companies in the logistics business setting up in competition (the main one named after a geographical location considerably far away from Lapland).

Put simply, Christmas needs saving and Santa can’t operate without solving his current employment law issues. With this in mind, let’s go on a Christmas journey and help Santa save Christmas!

So, what’s the first issue? Well, the Christmas period is a very busy time in Santa’s workshop! There are a lot of laptops to manufacture, teddy bears to stuff and chocolate selection boxes to fill with plastic inserts and a miserably small amount of chocolate… All of that takes manpower or, should I say, elfpower! Unfortunately, this requires very long weekly hours and the Working Time Regulations 1998 restrict Santa’s elves from working more than 48 hours per week. Put simply, that isn’t going to fulfil worldwide demand for everyone on Santa’s nice list!

What can Santa do? Well, if some of his elves are willing to work above the usual 48 hour weekly limit (perhaps for mince pie-related overtime rates), they can sign Working Time Regulation waivers which confirm that they don’t wish the 48 weekly hour limit to apply. However, Santa still has a general overriding ‘Elf and Safety duty (sorry!) to ensure that the elves’ health and safety isn’t put at risk through excessive hours. Therefore, Santa and Papa Elf should keep a close eye on any elves working above the 48 hour limit and, if they are excessively tired, prevent them working further hours.

What’s next on Santa’s list? Well, Santa has an elite, secret unit of experienced product testers to ensure that the presents made in the workshop are fit for purpose. Who are they? PENGUINS! Why penguins? Well, they’re known for their cheeky nature and, during initial present-making trials in the workshop, proved very adept at breaking presents instead!

Every year, Mrs Claus knits the penguins fresh Christmas jumpers to protect them from the extreme cold they have to ensure when testing presents outside. However, this year, one of the penguin’s Christmas jumpers has been stolen and, as a group, they are refusing to work until the culprit is found. Many of the penguins suspect Rudolph due to a recent incident in the Lapland pub when the penguin in question, after one too many egg nogs, made fun of Rudolph’s red nose and attributed it to wine drinking. How does Santa keep the peace with the penguins?

Well, firstly, this isn’t a valid strike action, so Santa is fit to withhold the penguins’ wages whilst they refuse to work. That means no fish fingers until the situation is resolved and this on its own should, eventually, turn the tide. However, realistically, Santa needs to take positive action in the meantime and would be best served having an informal, group meeting with the penguins. In this meeting, Santa should assure the penguins that he will fully investigate the issue and consider their comments about the recent incident with Rudolph but that, in the meantime, he can only pay them if they work and Mrs Claus has agreed to knit an Christmas jumper for the penguin in question. Whilst the jumper is being knitted, Santa will provide alternative Personal Protective Equipment (or should that be Penguin Protective Equipment?) by way of a thick, winter coat. Santa can then fully investigate the incident whilst the penguins continue their work.

On the subject of Rudolph, the ol’ red-nosed one has been causing a few issues for Santa and, due to a training incident, is injured and unable to fly. Thankfully, Santa has already planned for this and has had headlights fitted to the sleigh. However, he needs a replacement reindeer and, due to UK Christmas Market organisers nabbing so many of them, there are none left in Lapland. Instead, he has recruited Maurice the Moose. Thankfully, moose are able to fly albeit they need extra training to do so and, with sufficient effort, Maurice will be ready for Christmas Eve. But that’s the problem! Maurice isn’t putting in sufficient effort and, all things being said, he is proving rather lazy in training and his flying ability is not developing at a quick enough rate.

What should Santa do? Well, Santa should consider having an informal chat with Maurice to warn him that he is very concerned about his lackadaisical attitude and that he may be put on a formal performance improvement plan if this doesn’t improve. He should go on to warn Maurice that without any improvement over the next week or so, the formal process will start and, if he continues at his low level of performance, he won’t be used for Christmas Eve and will risk dismissal.

As for Rudolph? Well, he is still able to move around and pull sleighs on the ground, albeit he can’t strain his muscles enough to fly. Is Rudolph to be signed off work until he is fully recovered? Not necessarily. If Santa can find him an alternative role that won’t risk his injury, Rudolph can be asked to do so. It may be that Santa wants Rudolph to work in the workshop and transport items and materials from one department to another by internal sleigh.

And the final issue? Head of Sleigh Maintenance, Alabaster Snowball, has refused to re-engineer the sleigh to make it bigger (well, more kids are asking for flat screen TVs these days) unless he gets a pay rise of 5 extra mince pies per week (a precious commodity in Lapland, which Santa doesn’t give up easily!) Further, Alabaster is also threatening to highlight various unknown ‘Elf and Safety breaches, of which Santa is currently unaware.

Santa exercises equal pay to all his elves and they all receive the same wage (albeit the Heads of Department can qualify for a Christmas bonus via a ‘Santa Clause’ in their Contract!) Therefore, Santa won’t authorise one elf earning more than the rest.  What should he do?

Well, Santa should tell Alabaster that further refusal to carry out the work will be seen as a refusal to carry out reasonable management instructions, which is a potential act of gross misconduct and could result in dismissal.  In the meantime, Santa may well have the ability to suspend Alabaster. However, in relation to the ‘Elf and Safety breaches, Santa should invite Alabaster to raise these regardless of his other actions, so they can be fully investigated immediately. A note of warning is that Santa should ensure that any disciplinary action taken against Alabaster in relation to his refusal to work isn’t linked in any way to Alabaster’s notification of ‘Elf and Safety breaches (because Alabaster will have whistleblower protection if he makes a formal notification and can’t be subjected to a detriment linked to his whistleblowing).

So, there we go. Santa can return to regarding this as the most wonderful time of year once again and Christmas is saved!  Santa’s only remaining issue is to spread Christmas cheer, so there is enough Christmas spirit to help his sleigh fly across the world. How to help? Perhaps a mulled wine, mince pie and watching the film, Elf, this weekend will do the job – that’s my plan anyway! Merry Christmas in advance everyone! 🙂