Bribery Act is about to start

MARIE ALLEN, an employment solicitor at Gotelee Solicitors, warns of new offences for businesses and individuals created by the Bribery Act

AFTER a number of false starts, the Bribery Act 2010 will finally come into force on July 1, 2011.

With the change in the law only a matter of weeks away, all commercial organisations whether partnerships, limited companies or PLCs are advised to review the guidance, carry out risk assessments and put in place policies and procedures to prevent bribery.

The Act creates several new offences (with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine) for which employees, directors and commercial organisations can be liable, including:

n Offering, promising or giving a bribe;

n Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe;

n Bribing a foreign public official; and

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n A commercial organisation failing to prevent bribery.

The fourth offence of “failing to prevent bribery” is the one that has put the cat amongst the pigeons. An organisation will be guilty of an offence where a person associated with it (which would include employees, agents and contractors), bribes someone with the intention of obtaining or retaining business or a business advantage. There is a defence, but only if the organisation can show that it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery from taking place.

The Ministry of Justice has published guidance on procedures that commercial organisations should put in place, proportionate to the risk in their organisation, to prevent bribery occuring.

Practical tips for organisations from the guidance include:

n Policy: Have a properly implemented policy on anti-corruption and bribery applicable to anyone that provides services for the organisation, including employees, agents and contractors. This should set out, among other things, what amounts to bribery and the type of conduct that would be deemed unacceptable; the consequences of non-compliance and a reporting procedure.

n Communication: Communicate the policy to everyone to whom it applies. Cover it in the induction process for new employees and give all staff regular training on it.

n Training: Senior management should lead by example and show a top-level commitment to preventing bribery.

n Assess the risk: Carry out risk assessments and due diligence to identify and prioritise the risks of bribery faced. Certain types of business relationship or transaction might carry a higher risk.

n Monitor: Put in place procedures for monitoring compliance.

The Gotelee employment team can help you prepare for the changes, provide policies and procedures drafted for your organisation and provide training tailored for your staff and senior management. Please contact me at