In April 2011, the Bribery Act becomes enforceable and that means all businesses should start thinking a bit harder. In laymen’s language it will be a criminal offence for someone to offer, ask for or accept an “inducement” that may be a reward for acting improperly. And organisations will be committing an offence if they fail to prevent bribery by someone associated with them. And the scope of the UK Bribery Act covers UK organisations even if the business is conducted outside the UK.

The UK Bribery Act is therefore a key piece of legislation for all senior managers and Human Resources departments to think about.

What does the UK Bribery Act mean for my Business?

Consider the following scenario. You’re chatting to a colleague; in the conversation they mention one of the following:

  1. They had a client meeting in Starbucks and paid for both coffees.
    2. A supplier paid for their lunch at Pizza Express.
    3. A supplier sent them a lovely bunch of flowers on their birthday.
    4. A customer offered to make a donation to their favourite charity in return for a good deal.
    5. A supplier’s offered to let them use his villa in Tuscany for a holiday.
    6. They’re organising a 3 day “service users” conference in a 5 star hotel, all expenses paid; the “conference” bit is minimal.
    7. An employee of a major customer has asked them to arrange a large cash payment into an overseas bank account in her name to guarantee the company is shortlisted for a huge contract.

What’s your reaction? Of course it depends on exactly what your colleague said. It probably ranges from hardly noticing number 1 (having coffee or lunch with clients / suppliers is part of everyday business life) to finding number 7 very worrying. In the middle, your reaction probably also depends on the sort of organisation and sector you work in – what’s generally acceptable or not.

So how seriously do you need to take the UK Bribery Act? If you’re part of the senior team of any sort of organisation you should at least check how this may affect your business…

UK Bribery Act – Top Tips on How to Prepare:

  • Assess the risk – identify the business activities where the Act might be relevant.
  • Check there’s a business ethics policy that makes clear what is / isn’t acceptable in terms of giving and receiving gifts and favours of any kind.
  • Check that employees / suppliers / customers / service users know about your policy? Check it’s communicated clearly in staff handbooks, possibly included in contracts or service level agreements, and covered in induction or training.
  • Check whether your disciplinary procedure or other policies / procedures need changing.
  • Check that the policy identifies someone senior whom someone can speak to confidentially if they believe an offence has taken place.
  • If you think there are really serious implications for your organisation, talk to a legal expert.

We shall have to wait to see how the Act is interpreted in practice and what effect it has, but meanwhile you can make sure your organisation is prepared.