Brush up on Santa laws before the crimbo rush

Employers should get up-to-speed with employment issues surrounding seasonal
staff to ensure they are prepared in good time for the festive season

With only 11 weeks until Christmas,
many employers will be starting to write letters to Santa asking whether he is
available for seasonal work handing out gifts to queues of children in shops
across the country.

This time of year sees an annual rise in the number of ‘seasonal’ or
‘casual’ staff working in retail and other businesses to help with the
Christmas rush. As it seems to start earlier each year, employers would be wise
to ensure they are up-to-speed on the employment issues relating to seasonal
workers in plenty of time for the festive season.

Seasonal workers (except for agency staff) are covered by the provisions of
the Fixed Term (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.
These regulations provide that staff employed on fixed-term contracts cannot be
treated any less favourably than comparable permanent employees, unless the
treatment can be objectively justified.

This means that on a term by term comparison, or by a comparison of the
overall employment package, on a pro rata basis, there must be a parity of
treatment between permanent and fixed-term staff.

Seasonal workers generally fall within the definition of ‘worker’ for the
purposes of the Working Time Regulations (WTR) 1998. This means that seasonal
staff have the same rights to paid holiday and protection in respect of working
hours and rest periods as those employed on a permanent basis.

During the first year of employment, entitlement to the four weeks’ leave
per year provided under the WTR accrues on a monthly basis. This means seasonal
staff must accrue the relevant holiday before they can take that leave. In the
event the worker has not taken any leave by the end of their employment, they
will be entitled to payment in lieu. This should be included in the final
salary payment.

Employers seeking Santa and his helpers to distribute gifts to children
should take the specific nature of that role into account. They are taking on a
new worker who they may know little about, and placing them in direct contact
with young children.

Santa’s grotto may bring joy to the little ones, but it also brings a big
responsibility for the employer. Although there is no legal requirement for
Father Christmas to undergo a disclosure check with the Criminal Records Bureau
(CRB), it is advisable to undertake this procedure for anyone who may come into
direct contact with children or vulnerable people.

It is a precautionary measure few employers will want to ignore. The number
of applications for disclosure checks is likely to rise significantly in the
period leading up to Christmas, so employers would be wise to get their
applications in early to avoid the rush. Details of the CRB application
procedure can be found at

The nature of jobs working with young children and the need to protect the
child and the worker, means that many employers will no longer feel it is
appropriate for children to sit on Santa’s lap, and will opt for an open style
‘meet and greet’, rather than an enclosed grotto.

Employers should ensure guidance is given to their Santas on limiting
physical contact and having the presence of another suitable adult at all

Employers who take time to consider all the obligations and implications
associated with the recruitment of seasonal staff for the Christmas period will
help to ensure it is a happy time for all concerned. They might even get just
what they always wanted – a rise in profits. If not, there’s always the

By Sue Nickson, Partner, Hammonds

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