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Secret Santa Gifting

Updated: Jan 2

Secret Santa is often used in workplaces to ensure that all is fair in gift giving

But are there perils ahead? Surely nothing could go wrong with an anonymous Christmas gift?

Nine times out of ten, you can trust your staff’s judgement in knowing what’s appropriate and what’s not, but throw in some festive cheer and anonymised gifts and it can easily go a bit pear shaped! But is there anything you can do to reduce the risks? Or should you?


Culture is important in providing context as to what’s generally accepted behaviour and what’s not, but in any walk of life what may be banter to one can be offensive to another.

If you have a practical joker or someone who thinks nothing of teasing others day to day, these traits can be magnified with secret Santa gifting.

What can be done?

It may be worth setting out the rules when setting in place a secret Santa scheme, so that along with the usual guidance on spend per head, you’re providing guidance about things to consider …..

  • Your recipient may be teetotal

  • Your recipient may have an allergy

  • Your recipient may not share your sense of humour

  • If it’s not a gift you would want to unwrap in front of your Grandma, it’s probably not appropriate for a works secret Santa gift

Think we’re being all Bah Humbug and a party pooper? Don’t forget that as an employer, you could be liable if a member of staff, or supplier received an offensive gift.

Employment Law Company Citation’s survey of 650 companies found that 5% of organisations now have a policy in place to guide employees in their festive gift-giving.

What to avoid

There are some obvious gifts that can be funny to some but may easily cause offence – the inflatable boyfriend, phallic confectionery, furry handcuffs, underwear, sex toys to name but a few.

Last year, we advised on an issue where a member of staff had used the festive gift budget to send a sex toy to a supplier. The supplier rang to ‘inform’ management and ask for their account contact to be changed as it had left a very awkward feeling in what was up until then a professional supplier relationship.

I would run out of fingers on both hands if I shared the number of times we’ve had calls about fall outs after Christmas party behaviour or secret Santa gifts causing upset and distress.

Whilst providing guidance may seem like spoiling the fun, it can save a lot of headaches in the New Year!

Wishing everyone a trouble free and enjoyable Christmas, but if you do run into problems, just get in touch!

Check out other Blogs in our series:

Please contact Robinson Grace HR for further advice and support via or call us on 01793 311937 to see if we can help you.

The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.

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