It’s nearly here! Christmas is just five days away! The radio stations are playing Last Christmas by Wham on loop, supermarkets are clogging up the TV with advertisements for gooey desserts and it’s getting easier and easier to spot those remaining advert calendar squares!
Every family tends to have an annual pre-Christmas tradition and I’m no different. In fact, mine is to visit my younger family members each year and watch Elf with them. For those not in the know, Elf is a Christmas film which came out in 2003 and stars Will Ferrell as a human who is adopted by Santa’s elves and raised as a Christmas Elf at the North Pole. It sounds terrible but, in fact, it’s a cult classic that was named Best Christmas film in a recent survey!
Anyway, what better time of the year to explore whether or not Buddy the Elf is a good employee or not? I mean, it is an employment law-related and Christmas-themed topic, so what are we waiting for? Let’s travel through the Candy Cane forest and explore this further!
So, to give us some background, Buddy was a baby at an orphanage who snuck into Santa’s sack one night. When Santa discovers him at the bottom of his sack upon his return to the North Pole, an elf adopts him and raises Buddy as his own. Unfortunately, Buddy grows at three times the rate (and height) of the elves and, eventually, discovers that he is a human, not a Christmas Elf. Aside from his height, this is especially noticeable when Buddy can ‘only’ make 85 Etch-A-Sketches a day rather than his 1,000 daily target in Santa’s workshop. Upon discovering that he is human, Buddy goes to New York to find his real father and save him from the naughty list, as well as looking for a more normal life.
During the film, Buddy has work experience at his real father’s book company, work experience in a mail room and works as an employee of a large department store in the Christmas section. Buddy is dedicated and keen but, overall, was he a good employee (by UK employment law standards)?
Well, let’s take his work experience at the book company first. To start with, Buddy is friendly with staff and makes a lot of friends. One of his first interactions with staff is to compliment his father’s secretary on “being so pretty that you should be on a Christmas card”, to which she responds ‘well, thank you Buddy, that’s made my day’. In this case, the comment is taken well by the staff member, however, if he repeated this or said it in a different way, there would be an increased risk of that staff member viewing it as sexual harassment – on this occasion, she is merely cheered up by his positive nature. It’s fair to say that his telephone conduct also needs improvement – he answers phone calls with “Buddy the Elf! What’s your favourite colour?” – but, overall, his enthusiasm is welcomed by staff!
However, later on, Buddy walks into an important Company meeting with an author without permission and mocks the author’s short height by making elf jokes. Unfortunately, the author has a genetic disorder which is the reason for his atypically short stature. Regardless of the fact that Buddy didn’t intend to harm due to his sheltered upbringing, his words are potential acts of disability discrimination which could, so early in the employment relation, justifiably result in termination of his ‘employment’. In fact, he is sent from the room and told never to return by his father. An act that results in Buddy writing a goodbye note at their home reading “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.”
But what about Buddy’s time in the mail room? He makes a close friend and gets on well with everyone there after a shaky start, so that’s good surely? Well, the reason he gets on so well with everyone is because he consumes a large amount of alcohol (which he mistakes for maple syrup) and ends up dancing on the sorting desk roared on by the workforce. Obviously, drinking in the workplace and completely disrupting productivity and the sorting of mail is reason enough for his ‘employment’ there to be terminated as well (albeit being one of the funniest moments of the film!)
Okay, not the best start. But Buddy was raised as a Christmas Elf, so you’d imagine that he’d nail being a Christmas helper in the Christmas section of a department store? His usual Christmas Elf outfit meant that he was mistaken for an employee by a manager whilst in the store, so he clearly complies with the dress code! He also stayed after hours to transform the department into a true Christmas wonderland by designing dozens of Christmas decorations, albeit he does breach the Working Time Regulations by doing so because he failed to have an 11 hour break between shifts! Overall then, Buddy is a good employee aside from one incident with Santa Claus…
Basically, the department had a man dress as Santa for children within their grotto. However, Buddy soon realises that it isn’t the real Santa and confronts him in front of the children and parents. The best quote is this sequence being his famous accusation of the fake Santa “sitting on a throne of lies”. Eventually, Buddy pulls Santa’s fake beard off and, in the ensuing melee, half of the grotto is destroyed and the children are traumatised. The result? The department store get a restraining order against Buddy. So, again, it’s fair to say that termination of his ‘employment’ would have been justified because of failing to perform his duties and, instead, confronting the fake Santa and harming the reputation of the store.
It appears, then, that Buddy isn’t cut out for the world of work. However, fortunately, at the end of the film, Buddy writes a successful book about his adventures and reads the book out to delighted children at arranged book readings. So, in a nice way, the film ends with Buddy finally having found a job he enjoys and is good at!
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and, in the words of Buddy the Elf, just remember: “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”