Celtic Manor Resort in South Wales has inadvertently become the focus of media attention following its decision to recruit a Mr and Mrs Claus for its “Christmas Kingdom” attraction. The job advertisements stated that Father Christmas would be paid £12 per hour whilst Mrs Claus will receive the national minimum wage of £6.70 per hour, nearly half the rate paid to Father Christmas.
Celtic Manor has sought to justify the pay disparity by explaining that Father Christmas will take the “lead role” whilst Mrs Claus will occupy more of a “supporting role” along with the elves.
Is this pay gap legal? The story has provoked quite a debate, raising some topical issues about Christmas gender stereo typing and the true value of what Mrs Santa does, the role being something of a new one. There is, of course, no doubt that the job of the real Santa is quite unique and requires unrivalled, highly specialist skills that would be tricky to assess as part of a job evaluation! However, the Santa and Mrs Santa roles at this particular Christmas Kingdom require some analysis in terms of skills and activities. Firstly, Mrs Claus needs to demonstrate that she is carrying out “like work” or “work of equal value”. Celtic Manor appear to be disputing this and have made the following statement:
“The difference in pay reflects on the more skilled requirements and responsibilities of the Santa role and is, in no way, indicative of a gender pay divide at Christmas Kingdom. The Celtic Manor Resort remains a committed equal opportunities employer.”
It cannot always be easy to cheerfully listen to the Christmas wishes of hundreds of children and make all those dreams come true but it is interesting that the job advertisement in this case refers to Mrs Claus being in “her kitchen”. Running a busy kitchen at Christmas (lets leave aside the stereotyping for moment!) and no doubt looking after hundreds of hungry elves cannot be easy either. Work of equal value?
If Mrs Santa were to get over this initial hurdle, it would be open to Celtic Manor to prove that the difference in pay is attributable to a material factor that is not based on sex, (the “material factor” defence). That may be troublesome. Historical factors can be relevant to this defence but, of course, times have changed.
We will see whether this Mrs Santa feels truly appreciated this Christmas or whether we will see her in the employment tribunal in the new year...