By Lisa Rix and Mark Callaghan – 17 December 2020
As everyone begins to get into the festive spirit, GQ|Littler has managed to get an inside scoop direct from Santa’s secret UK workshop (it’s not just the ones in the North Pole and Lapland you know!). We sat down (virtually, of course) with Santa over a glass of mulled wine at the beginning of this month. He spoke to us about how he has been handling COVID-19 and its employment related challenges this year.
As we all know, Santa’s elve-ployees work all year long to prepare toys and presents for children around the world. They are famously paid far in excess of national minimum wage and receive a generous benefits package which includes (somewhat unusually) a “personal mince pie allowance”. Thankfully, due to an ever-increasing number of deliveries each year, Santa has never made a single elf redundant.
Earlier in the year, during the first lockdown, toy-making elves were classed as ‘key workers’ and so were able to keep going into the workshop. The Head of “Elf” and Safety followed the Government’s guidance and put in place all the safety precautions needed to make it “Covid-secure”. Social distancing is near impossible in the workshop, which retains the look and feel of a cosy wood-cabin, so these precautions included plastic screens at regular intervals (cleverly repurposed from toy packaging) and Christmas themed facemasks.
Elves in other departments, such as Sleigh Maintenance, have unfortunately been furloughed for large parts of the year due to the ongoing restrictions on travel, but Santa has been good enough to keep them topped up to full pay throughout.
Santa himself has been forced to work from ho-ho-home for much of the year. Sadly, he falls firmly into the clinically vulnerable category, given his age (which he refuses to disclose), weight (he remains a big chap, despite his commitment to Joe Wicks’ online classes earlier this year) and gender. For these reasons, ever since the first lockdown, Santa’s ‘presents’ at the workshop has been deemed too risky, so he has been keeping in touch with the workshop every day via video call and has been managing them remotely. There was a minor disagreement in April when the reindeers expressed a preference for Zoom over Microsoft Teams, but by May they had completely changed their minds (they are often fickle animals, as Rudolf can attest to).
Santa told us that there has been a huge change in the gifts being requested this year, with a notable increase in puppies, games consoles and elasticated clothing. He has also had to recruit many temporary elves into his Administrative team to manage the naughty and nice list. Apparently, the overuse of the use of the phrases “unprecedented” and “new normal” means more than usual will be receiving a bag of coal this year.
Fortunately, as a very important person, Santa received the first approved vaccine and is now safe to return to the workshop just in time for Christmas. He commented that “2020 has been snow joke”.