How to play it safe with Secret Santa in your business

Tuesday November 21, 2023

At The HR Dept, the week after the Christmas party and Secret Santa is always busy. It seems that despite our (and every employment lawyer’s) warning, mistakes still happen.

Christmas party antics can perhaps be excused as a result of overindulging in festive alcohol. But Secret Santa presents are bought knowingly and in advance! People do not share the same sense of humor and some gifts can be downright unkind: diet pills for a staff member, or sexy underwear for the pensioner. Believe us we have heard it all, usually in the grievance meeting after the gift exchange! 

Sadly, it can escalate further. Particularly if this is the final straw. What is perceived as harassment or bullying can end up with a Fair Work claim. So please, we would love to have a trouble-free lead up to Christmas – even though the incidents do often make us laugh.

So, to make sure Secret Santa (or any sort of gift exchange for that matter) goes smoothly in your business, read our HR advice below. 

No pressure

When offering a Secret Santa or gift exchange amongst your employees, make sure to point out that participation is optional. This is because some employees might not have the budget to join in or may feel uncomfortable buying a gift for a colleague that they hardly know.

Budget friendly

It’s a good idea to set a budget for your Secret Santa game to reduce the risk of employees overspending on their gifts. Somewhere between $5-$10 is usually a good suggestion, as there are many reasonably priced stocking fillers available that make great gifts.

Gift guidance

With no idea of what to buy one another your employees could run the risk of a very awkward faux pas. One person’s idea of a hilarious joke could be taken the wrong way by someone else. Eek!

To save them (and you) from the embarrassment, it would be wise to provide some guidance on gift giving.

For example: Avoid alcohol to respect those who don’t drink, don’t get too personal and steer clear of fragrance, body products, jewellery or undergarments. No cash alternatives and inappropriate gifts are banned.

If you are concerned about the outcome of your game, a wish-list can be a good way to encourage participants to make suggestions of what they would be happy to receive.

Gift aid 

Unsure of how to host a work friendly Secret Santa? Or perhaps your team has already exchanged gifts and you’ve been left with a Christmas controversy to resolve! Get in touch with your local HR Dept for a seasonal solution. 

Preventing People Problems

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