Auditing Santa: investigating labour practices in Santa’s workshop

Article by Achilles

There’s no doubt that the logistical challenge of sourcing and delivering Christmas presents to children across the world from approximately 500 million households is one that would trouble any Procurement Director and their team. But for Father Christmas it is all in day’s work, albeit a day that starts from sundown on Christmas Eve on one side of the international date line in Russia, and ends just before sunrise on Christmas Day in Alaska.

Last year, we explored how Father Christmas truly is the ultimate Global Supply Chain Manager, but how would his operation stand up to the scrutiny of an Achilles’ Labour Practice Audit (LPA)? What could be the key issues covered for this arctic employer?

Assuming as we do that Father Christmas is based in Lapland, he would be regulated by EU workplace practices, so a protective framework to start with. But good employment practices are universal, and we’re sure that Father Christmas will be a stickler for staying off the naughty list when it comes to being a great employer.

A couple of issues immediately come to mind. A question always asked of employees during an LPA is whether their employer provides their accommodation, and if the video evidence here is to be believed, this potentially looks like a very overcrowded situation in there . However, anecdotal feedback suggests that elves are free to come and go, and they retain control of their own travel documents – another key indicator of freedom of movement.

Operating in extreme temperatures in the run up to Christmas and then on the night itself in often hazardous conditions, will be demanding for all involved. Any auditor undertaking this type of complex audit would be asking questions around whether the employer is freely providing the protective equipment needed to do the job. The evidence here shows that whilst Father Christmas is up to speed with some EU PPE regulation, he’ll need to have carefully scrutinised how to keep his staff safe from the threat of COVID as they travel the world on Christmas Eve.

Do we think Father Christmas is an equal opportunities employer? The footage we’ve seen suggests that he has a good grasp of sign language, and given his experience in global markets, he’s probably multi lingual. This is important because it means he can deliver information and training on important issues such as health and safety or hazard avoidance, in a variety of languages to his elf employees.

Perhaps the most obvious question for Father Christmas and his elves is around working conditions. The run up to Christmas is busy for many commercial operations, but the scale of this global project means that it could be unlikely that elves get appropriate rest breaks, time off and overtime payments. This would be something an Achilles Auditor would be keen to understand more about. But then, just for this one particularly special operation, perhaps insight might ruin the magic of Christmas? We’ll never know.



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