UK employers and employees are being encouraged to ditch traditional Secret Santa gifts this Christmas and give to charity instead.

Research1 by UK Money Bloggers (a network of over 400 personal finance influencers and part of the Smart Money People Group) shows that:

  • almost a third (29%) of workplace Secret Santa participants say there are certain colleagues they dread having to buy for;
  • the same proportion (29%) say that opening their gifts in front of colleagues makes them uncomfortable;
  • a quarter (24%) have had to buy a gift for a colleague they’ve never spoken to;
  • 18% say that Secret Santa is an additional stress that they don’t need at that time of year;
  • one in ten (12%) agree that it does not boost team spirit.

In fact, although a third (33%) of staff at UK organisations will participate in workplace Secret Santa this year, 30% would prefer not to take part, and 36% will give away the gift they receive.

£167m3 is to be spent on workplace Secret Santa this year (an average of £15.50 per person) but £60m4 of this is wasted as the gifted items are unwanted.

Smart Money People CEO, Jacqueline Dewey said:

Buying and receiving Secret Santa presents from colleagues can make some staff feel really awkward. This is especially the case in larger organisations when it’s impossible to know everyone well and with hybrid working meaning staff do not see each other regularly.

Jacqueline Dewey, Smart Money People CEO

Given the rising cost of living, almost three-quarters (72%) would like to see changes this year, including setting a smaller limit for donations (31%) and preferring to give to charity (22%). Based on last year’s budgets, this could mean an extra £37m2 in the pockets of UK charities.

Worst Secret Santa gifts…

A used candle, a laundry basket, washing-up gloves, a toilet roll and a five-pound note, were all among the worst gifts received by employees. Groceries also featured heavily in the worst gifts received including mouldy Turkish Delight, an apple, mayonnaise, a cabbage, a jar of Bovril and an already-open bag of sweets!

An alternative to gifting

As an alternative, Smart Money People and UK Money Bloggers have teamed up with children’s charity KidsOut to encourage ‘giving’ instead of ‘gifting’.

Employees can donate on behalf of their Secret Santa knowing that the money will instead be used to buy Christmas presents for disadvantaged children in women’s refuges. Many of these children flee their homes to escape abuse but do so leaving all of their possessions behind.

Sara Williams, CEO, KidsOut said:

Each year more than 20,000 children flee domestic abuse to seek sanctuary in a refuge. Typically, they leave home with only the clothes on their back and have often experienced abuse. Many arrive at refuge centres with nothing. Without charities like us, many of these children may not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas.

Sara Williams, CEO, KidsOut 

Employers who are responsible for organising their workplace Secret Santa will find a free printable ‘give or gift’ sheet at Donations to the KidsOut Charity can be made at

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.