No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Offbeat: The Santa clause


Think being Father Christmas is all sherry and mince pies? Think again. Mark Benjamin offers a tongue-in-cheek look at the skills needed to be Santa.

What do you need to be a professional Santa? Traditionally, the qualifications for the role of Father Christmas were to be a kindly gentleman of a certain age with a ruddy complexion, white beard, bouncy knees, and to like children. However, in a bid to bring the profession into the 21st century the Department of Work and Pensions, in consultation with HR professionals, have recommended new standards both for the protection and accreditation of Santas:

  • Criminal Records Bureau check, clearance level 1

  • Minimum NVQ level-4 in Yo-ho-hoing and Festive Greetings

  • Certificate in Grotto Management

  • Own Sleigh with current M.O.T. Certificate and public liability insurance

  • Advanced gift-wrapping skills

  • Genuine long white beard, ruddy complexion, rotund stature, watery eyes and bouncy knees

  • Competency based occupational testing for ability to maintain permanent ‘jolly’ expression
  • The Issues

    Santas (who deliver up to 500 “yo-ho-ho’s” per day at peak periods) are also demanding greater rights as seasonal employees. Many want to put a different meaning to the “clause” in Santa via their employment contracts - not only to protect their livelihood, but their safety also.

    The Union representing over 25,000 professional Santas in the UK, Yo-Ho-Honison, is also lobbying for Santas’ employment contracts to demand:

    Tax relief on essential equipment such as: knee protectors, mascara & beard maintenance

    A Dependant's Allowance for up to five reindeer and two elves

    A nil rate of VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) on Sleighs due to their low annual mileage
    and CO2 emissions, plus exemption from the Congestion Charge.

    Yo-ho-honison is also looking into the Health & Safety risks for many Santas who now supplement their income by delivering presents to private homes - where chimneys are too narrow. One insider told us that many Santas now secretly attend Weight-watchers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And many are said to be suffering from eating disorders resulting from crash dieting to ‘slim-down’ to fit inside modern chimneys, rather than lose work.

    There are also reports that protection rackets are rife in the sector. One anonymous Santa we spoke to said: “This used to be a cushy, tax-free part-time job with long holidays and your own self-contained Grotto. Nowadays it’s a dangerous occupation - like being a doctor’s receptionist or in customer services at British Gas. I have to a carry a Christmas cracker with an iron bar hidden inside, for my own safety.”

    Yo-Ho-Honison spokesperson and retired Santa, Reg Compton, told us: “We may have to introduce door staff (bouncers) and CCTV in grottos to protect our members. We’re also considering offering self-defence training to Santas wishing to become licensed. But many are well over 100 years old - and not as fit as they once were.”

    Responding to accusations of ageism and sexism in the industry, Crompton said: “We know that we need ‘new blood’ in the profession, but what parent wants their infant to meet a 19 year-old Santa with a fluffy chin, bony knees and an iPod sticking out of each ear? - it could shatter the litterluns’ perceptions of Christmas for the rest of their lives.

    “We’ve considered allowing women into Santa-ing, which is even more controversial. Santa Claudia, or Santa Faye maybe? But of course there’s the beard issue.”

    Mr Compton concluded: “Being ‘jolly’ to the public (especially children) for eight hours a day is stressful enough, but the job is becoming physically dangerous too. If we don’t get more support from the authorities and retail sector, we’ll instruct our members to work to rule: This means a maximum of 50 Yo-ho-ho’s per day and security staff in grottos. The cost to the retail industry will be high.”

    Mark Benjamin is a training consultant, writer and humorist who explores the lighter side of the world of training, people and change. Email: telephone: + 44 (0)7850 711803


    Get the latest from TrainingZone.

    Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


    Thank you!