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New Bribery Laws – implications for employers
The new Bribery Act received Royal Assent last month. This means that employers who fail to tackle bribery could face unlimited fines, and individuals could end up in prison for up to 10 years under new laws designed to clean up corruption in business. The full provisions of the Act are expected to come into force by the end of the year.

There are four specific offences:
• bribing another person (giving or offering a “financial or other advantage” to procure or reward “improper exercise” of a public or business activity);
• requesting, accepting or receiving a bribe;
• bribing a foreign public official; and
• failure by a commercial organisation to prevent bribery by a person who provides services to it.

The fourth offence is of most concern to employers, who could find themselves liable for failing to prevent bribery committed by those who provide them with services, including employees, agents or consultants – wherever they are in the world. But employers will have a defence if they can prove they had “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery.

How you do this will depend on the size and nature of your organisation, but at the very least this should include the development and communication of an ethics and anti-bribery policy to staff to minimise the risks and establish a robust defence if an act of bribery is committed. Larger more complex businesses are likely to need a range of checks, controls and audit processes.

If you don’t already have one in place, you may need a code of conduct specifying expected standards of behaviour, as well as introducing tighter controls on expenses incurred while entertaining business contacts and on receipt of gifts and hospitality. Your organisation’s disciplinary policy may also need amending so that it states that making or receiving a bribe will be considered gross misconduct.

Employers should also have a whistle-blowing policy, enabling staff to report acts of bribery and should make sure that they investigate all reports, bearing in mind that employment tribunals now have powers to disclose whistle-blowers’ allegations to the regulators.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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