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Professional negligence claims against Father Christmas?

22nd January 2013

However, those employed as Father Christmas impersonators at shopping centres – and the organisations who give them the important festive role – might be at risk of having legal action taken against them.

Because these people speak with children as representatives of the real Santa, and are used to pull in a crowd at time of year when shopping complexes compete against each other to attract the most customers, it is important that they accurately portray the jolly, friendly man.

Potentially, a Father Christmas who is inappropriately dressed, speaks unkindly or swears in the presence of the children could land himself and his employers in serious trouble.

Companies who hire out Father Christmas impersonators, or organisations which employ individuals who are not on any agency’s books, should take great care in selecting their staff and provide them with a code of conduct.

In 2005, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Fun – which provides well trained Santas and elves – stated that the company was drawing up tough new guidelines for its Father Christmases.

The spokesperson stated, “We are trying to eradicate shoddy Santas. Santa is a magical and cuddly man, not a fat, smelly slob.”

In order to do this the firm had made sure that strict rules regarding clothing and demeanor were followed. Furthermore, beards were to be no longer than six inches, and between 46 and 48 inches in width.

The company added, “He must not smell of drink or body odor and his ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ must resonate deeply.”

In 2010 a US Father Christmas was fired from his post because some parents complained about a response he had given to a question. Out of the earshot of children, the man had replied to the query “Why are you so jolly?” with the sentence “Because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live.”

Reportedly this was a question he had been asked for decades – he had played Father Christmas at that particular shopping centre for more than 20 years – and he had always responded in the same way.

The job might just involve sitting about all day and asking children what they’d like for Christmas, but being Santa is no easy gig – slip out of character or interpret the seasonal icon in a way which offends someone, and there’s always a possibility that someone will complain. 

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