When a Christmas gift is a bribe…

When the Bribery Act 2010 came into effect in July 2011, it was considered one of the toughest pieces of anti-bribery and corruption legislation in the world and thrust the activities of employees across a whole variety of sectors into the spotlight.

The Act was introduced to address concerns that the giving of corporate hospitality, gifts, and expenses could amount to a criminal offence. The Act can be difficult to interpret because there is no legal definition of ‘gift’, ‘corporate hospitality’, or ‘expense’. Businesses have to decide on their own parameters and incorporate them into company policies. In the run up to Christmas many managers are the recipient of “goodwill gestures” and it is important to remember obligations under the Bribery Act.

To avoid falling foul of the Act, companies need to make sure their anti-bribery and corruption polices are clear, accessible, and training provided to staff. It is important to prohibit gifts, hospitality, or expenses which can be seen to give someone a financial or other advantage. It’s always a good idea to impose an upper limit on gifts and to make sure that anything received is declared. Business professionals can still go out for dinner with clients and continue to accept gifts providing they fall within the limit stated within company policy. At this time of year, as gifts are offered and accepted, a good policy is to “pool” all gifts and divide them equally with all staff – this avoids any suggestion that one particular manager has been influenced by a gift!

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