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T’was the night before Christmas when Mrs Claus handed Santa his legal checklist…

T’was the night before Christmas when  Mrs Claus handed Santa his legal checklist…

“Hot toddy! Mrs Claus, what’s this?” says Santa

Ben Mannering is a solicitor at the State Claims Agency



“The world has changed, Santa,” says the missus. “Now, not only do you have to do your old job of merely delivering toys to every child in the world in one night, but you must do so in the most compliant way possible.”

In keeping with the season of merriment, what if this actually occurred? We all feel a bit like Santa these days, and not just in the red-nose-and-portly-belly kind of way.

More and more compliance seems to be taking us away from our day job. But what if the day job involved a trip around the world to deliver presents to every child? What would that compliance checklist look like?

T’was the night before Christmas when  Mrs Claus handed Santa his legal checklist…

T’was the night before Christmas when  Mrs Claus handed Santa his legal checklist…

Absolute nightmare

Data retention and storage – an absolute nightmare for Santa, considering that most people to whom he will be delivering will be children, who are treated differently under the Data Protection Act 2018.

As the North Pole is outside the EU, there are limitations on transfers of personal data outside the EU (section 37, Data Protection Act 2018), so he’s off to a bad start getting the initial letters.

We all know Santa keeps our letters each year but, thanks to the right to be forgotten, he must “without undue delay erase personal data of the data subject”.

Does he have the child’s consent to pass the letters to the third-party elf? Is there a need for a data-sharing agreement between the Pole and its third-party workers?

Who is the data controller of this data which, if classed as ‘special category’ data (a lot of letters can include data concerning health, where little Johnny tells Santa about his ailments through the year in an effort to boost his chances of a better surprise), is under even more scrutiny.

Section 51 would give Santa a lawful basis to process the data where he is carrying on a substantial public interest.

It would be hard to argue he’s not doing that. Thankfully, Mrs Clause carried out the ‘Data Protection Impact Assessment’ in time this year. 

Immigration – luckily, Mrs Claus applied for his short-stay business visa in time, so that’s one less headache, unlike the year he forgot, and had to spend a night as a guest of the nation.

Up in the air

Aviation – did Santa get his air-operator certificate from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and his valid air-carrier operating licence from the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR)? Did he get a clear certificate of aircraft airworthiness from the IAA?

Occupiers’ liability – having at last got up in the air, where’s Santa going to land the sleigh? It is hoped, although couldn’t be guaranteed, that Santa would be deemed a visitor under section 3 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995.

Under this section, the occupier has a duty to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances (having regard to the care that a visitor might reasonably be expected to take for his or her own safety; and, if the visitor is on the premises in the company of another person, the extent of the supervision and control the latter person may reasonably be expected to exercise over the visitor's activities) to ensure that a visitor to the premises does not suffer injury or damage by reason of any danger existing thereon.

If the occupier knows Santa is coming and it’s snowing on Christmas Eve, is it reasonable not to clean the roof of the icy substance when one knows the visitor will be landing on the roof with a sleigh and reindeers?

Gaining access

Product liability – having gained access, without being prosecuted for trespass (section 13 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994), the big man leaves the presents.

As the Elves are based outside the EU, under section 2 (2) of the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991, Santa knows that he will be deemed the producer of any defective present, so is hoping the Elves have complied with the Toy Safety Directive.

Thirsty work

Gifts and hospitality – it’s thirsty work, this present-delivering lark, and thankfully the children always leave Santa a little present for his troubles.

As a public official, Santa is conscious of his obligations regarding transparency and accountability, and will include the gifts and hospitality received on his gifts and hospitality register.

Whatever happened to the good old days of a drop of porter with the whiskey-soaked pudding? I suppose that the Road Traffic Act 2014 put paid to any shenanigans, thanks to mandatory testing and the lower alcohol limit.

Noise from upstairs

Safeguarding of children – what’s that noise coming from upstairs? There was a time when Santa used to love hiding and telling children coming down the stairs to go back to bed. Not anymore!

All that’s changed following the raft of safeguarding guidance, including his Garda vetting, which Mrs Claus nearly forgot to renew!

Risk assessment

Health and safety – it’s much better working alone anyway. Well, until he realised that section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires the employer to undertake a risk assessment.

This shall determine whether an employee may work alone, and must assess whether an employee is at significantly higher risk when working alone.

Is there any higher risk than flying an overloaded sleigh around the world in one night with a clatter of reindeer? And he thought he had it bad with the working-at-height risk assessment

‘Home, Rudolph!’

Animal welfare – well, thankfully, he can get home now with the help of the reindeers. They are fully fed, thanks to section 13 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which provides for:

a)   Sufficient quantity of wholesome and uncontaminated drinking water or other suitable liquid appropriate to its physiological or behavioural needs, which satisfies the animal’s fluid intake requirements,

b)   A quantity of suitable and wholesome food sufficient to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the animal, and

c)   Such other nourishment having regard to its nature, type, species, breed, development, adaptation, domestication and state of health, and to the animal’s physiological or behavioural needs. 

Take a break

Miscellaneous – finally home! Just a bit more to do. Update the Santa Nav licence for next year so he does not use the system out of licence, comply with Mrs Claus’s clean-desk policy, ‘like’ 3 billion Facebook and Instagram posts, all the while making sure he doesn’t breach the Organisation of Working time Act 1997, ensuring he gets a 15-minute rest break if he works four-and-a-half hours, and 30 minutes of rest if he works six hours.

So, job done for another year! Even with compliance, Santa loves his job and, like us all, while sometimes we seem to be presented with more and more obstacles to just ‘doing the day job’, it’s worth it to remember ‘poor aul Santa’ and think, well, it could be worse!

Nollaig shona duit!

Ben Mannering is a solicitor at the State Claims Agency. The views expressed are personal and should not be taken as the views of the National Treasury Management Agency