We haven’t taken a good close look at Santa in the last few years so we are taking another look at his dual roles as employee and employer.

Santa as an employee

While Santa is most famous in his role as an employer, he also moonlights as an employee. In the months running up to his busy season, he often takes jobs in department stores. This gives him a chance to earn a little extra cash while engaging in some hands-on market research with his primary customer base. The department store gig is not an easy job.

His pay is decent. We don’t have updated figures for 2023 yet, but last year Santa earned $162,555, an overall 2% rise since the prior year. Reports from last year’s Santa Tracker  note the various components of his job and how they factored into his salary adjustment.

Gift wrapper / Packer: +6%
Letter reader / Correspondence clerk: +4%
Taking care of reindeer / Farmworker: +4%

Santa’s jobs that saw wage decreases last year include:

Cookie and milk taster / Agricultural inspector: -3%
Personal shopper / Sales worker: -2%
Going down chimneys / Building cleaner: -1%

Additionally, Santa’s job of riding the sleigh did not see any wage change.

And although the job pays pretty well, the uniform is uncomfortable, there’s a high exposure to germs, and many of the customers are disgruntled. And despite his public popularity and good image, Santa as an employee is an HR director’s nightmare. He drives too fast while on the job and there is some evidence that he is tipping brandy while he drives. Plus he smokes a pipe and eats too many cookies.

Besides all his bad habits, Santa’s job holds a variety of risks. He is sneezed or coughed on up to ten times a day, and he has been “wet on” in 34% of his mall stops, poor guy. He has to wrangle wild animals, work in frigid temperatures, climb down chimneys, and lift and carry unknown metric tons of toys.

Here’s a word to the wise for the department store hiring managers: Maintaining best hiring practices is important – don’t cut corners just because you are hiring a seemingly trustworthy guy like St. Nick. Given his exposure to the public, it might be worth running a background check for arrest warrants, sexual offenses and other criminal matters to protect your organization from potential liability.

And once you’ve hired Santa, the job is not complete — meticulous on-the-job training is vital – because unlike the class in the video below, not everyone can go to Santa Harvard. Plus, you may want to conduct an ergonomic assessment of his job — the nature of his work presents lot of potential for on-the-job injuries. And you will definitely want to refer him to your EAP program to get help for seasonal stress.

Santa as an employer

Santa runs a massive offshore toy manufacturing enterprise and a global fulfillment and delivery service. His operations perform a very important social function, but the work fraught with pressure and unforgiving deadlines.

It pains us to bring this up, but there is no getting around it—no matter how beloved he is in the world at large, as an employer, Santa leaves something to be desired. He has a huge workforce. According to Santa Tracker, “In 2020, the number of elves jumped to over 110,000.” It’s estimated that his workforce is currently over 200,000.

Really, he is little more than a sweat shop operator, forcing his elves to work long hours at low pay.

He’s not beholden to OSHA for safety or US labor laws so the elves work long hours for low pay under hazardous conditions. Legal observers note that Santa plays fast and loose with a host of employment laws, risking everything from workers comp claims for on-the-job injuries to class-action suits for hiring discrimination.

Now we are very fond of Santa, but frankly, some of these employment practices stink. So Santa, if you are listening, give us a call — we’d be happy to enroll you in our online compliance training free of charge. We’ll gladly throw in some stress reduction coaching for you and your elves, too!



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