Father Christmas
22 December 2020 | Miscellaneous, News

Is Father Christmas a Serial Law-breaker?

As we look back on quite the year, and ahead to a 2021 that can only be better, many of us are looking forward to relaxing and spending time with our families & friends over the Christmas break.  For those of us who’ve done our best this year, a visit from Father Christmas is hopefully on the cards.  However, perhaps we should look a little more closely at this jolly fellow’s business operations…

Employment Issues

While it’s more than likely the case that Santa’s Little Helpers are not on zero-hour contracts, and do have proper employee status, it’s probable that their hours are long and difficult, leaving them with the minimum of 11 hours’ rest per day and the statutory minimum breaks.  Health & Safety would be a mammoth task to manage in such a busy production facility, so it’s likely that stringent processes and regular training courses are in place.

It is very important that Father Christmas keeps his employees happy, though, as any employment tribunal brought against him could result in costly legal fees and significant disruption in the planning and production lines.  Perhaps the elves have unionised – their number must surely exceed the 21 required to form a union in the UK.

Animal Welfare

If we set aside that Rudolph was more than likely the victim of workplace bullying until the rest of the team realised that they could only achieve their appraisal objectives with his help, there are other animal welfare issues for consideration.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 requires that animals are provided with a suitable environment and diet, and are protected from pain and suffering.  It’s probable that Santa’s reindeer are native to the North Pole region and so are used to the cold environment, but what provisions are made to ensure their welfare while travelling through the hotter parts of the world?  There is also the point about how often the reindeer take rest breaks.  Under the AWA, if Santa is found guilty of an offence the Act covers, he could be subject to up to 51 weeks in prison, which would have an enormous impact on his business.


In order to travel the world, visiting many millions of homes, in such a short space of time, especially when he has to stop at each house to make a delivery, Father Christmas is more than likely breaking multiple speeding and parking laws.  While it could be argued that as he’s not actually travelling by road so the speed limits do not apply, there are aviation laws that do. Given that most of Santa’s flying would be done at altitudes below 10,000ft (3,000m) he is required to travel no faster than 250 knots, about 290 miles per hour.  To get the job done, Santa would have to travel at around 650 miles per second, which far exceeds this limit.  Additionally, not even military aircraft can exceed the speed of sound unless it’s an emergency.  So, traveling at around 2,340,000 per hour, Father Christmas could theoretically expect to receive a few speeding tickets – if the speed cameras could react quick enough.  It seems that he gets away with speeding simply because technology can’t yet keep up!


If he does enjoy a little tipple at even just a few houses, he would very quickly exceed the maximum legal blood alcohol content, set out in the the Road Traffic Act 1988, of 80mg/100ml (around 0.08% BAC) in the UK.  However, in most European countries the limit is lower, and in Hungary it’s 0%, so he could easily find himself on the wrong side of a breath test.

We can only assume that Father Christmas has some immunity to alcohol and somehow metabolises it out of his system in real-time.

Breaking & Entering/Trespass

Although trespass isn’t necessarily a criminal offence, depending on Father Christmas’ entry method, he could be considered to be breaking and entering.

Of course, we all give him special permission to come in to our homes, so it’s likely that rather than being a trespasser, or worse, Father Christmas is the perfect guest – he comes and goes quietly, leaves us some gifts, doesn’t eat or drink much, and doesn’t stay too long.

GDPR and Illegal Surveillance

In order to maintain the Naughty and Nice lists, Father Christmas must store a lot of personal data about us.  Considering that his business operations are located at the North Pole, and he keeps data about people from all over the world, Father Christmas’ Data Protection or Information Officer must be extremely busy.

Holding data which includes our names, dates of birth (and calculated ages), address, personality traits, and (in the case of children) parents’ incomes in such a manner so as to comply with data protection requirements around the globe would be an administrative nightmare.  Factor in how the data is stored and the issue becomes even more complex.  Is it stored in the cloud?  Is it replicated across continental or country boundaries?  Who has access to it?  For how long is it retained?  What is the process by which subjects can request a copy of their data?

In order to maintain the lists, Father Christmas would have to keep an eye on us, all the time.  This would require that he be given very special authorisation by the Secretary of State to carry out such detailed observation.  He would almost certainly fall foul of the The Regulatory and Investigative Powers Act 2000, with the amount of surveillance he carries out dwarfing that carried out by those comparatively amateur people at GCHQ.

COVID-19 Tier 4

This year, Father Christmas faces an additional challenge.  COVID-19 and the border & regional tier controls mean that he may not be permitted to cross between countries, or even counties in the UK, in order to do his work.  Of course, he can’t work from home, so his journey would be classed as essential travel.  However, he would not be part of anyone’s support bubble, so could not enter the homes of some people in tiers three and four.

As you can see, Father Christmas has many serious legal considerations to think about during his work.  Fortunately, his globally-recognised diplomatic status does mean that he can carry on as he has been for so long, without fear of legal implications.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients for their continued support, and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year.

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