Bribery Act 2010

The Bribery Act 2011 came into force on 1 July 2011. It applies to all UK organisations in all sectors, as well as foreign businesses operating a branch or subsidiary in the UK. The Act introduces four main offences which not surprisingly are:

  • Offering, promising or giving a bribe
  • Receiving a bribe
  • Bribing a foreign public official
  • Failure by a commercial organisation to prevent a bribe being paid for or on its behalf


The last offence applies only to commercial organisations; the others relate equally to public and private-sector organisations. These acts will be offences if committed overseas as well as in the UK:

Clear, written guidance on giving and accepting gifts and hospitality should be communicated to and signed for by all employees. This will help reduce the possibility of ambiguity and misunderstanding. Obvious associated Policies and procedures that may need review and re-communicating are Discipline in relation to what constitutes unacceptable conduct, Public Interest Disclosures, and any bonus or commission schemes.

As always we recommend training staff on the Policy as a best way to communicate it clearly and unambiguously. Training should provide for staff to know that the Policy is not just about protecting the organisation, but also about protecting them in that inappropriate actions will not be brushed under the carpet. Thereafter new staff should be informed about this during induction.

Discussion points

The definition of Bribery is broader than “a brown envelope stuffed with money”. Giving and receiving lavish gifts or a commercial advantage fall under this Act. Note that a bribe does not have to be paid: a mere promise will suffice, and acceptance does not need to be deliberate but may be unwitting.

The defence for an employer is to show that “adequate procedures” are in place to prevent bribery. It is worth looking at this carefully; if you become embroiled in a situation, even unintentionally, the potential fine is unlimited.

It is important for good Employment Relations to have clear guidance for employees. This is to protect the employer who is vicariously liable for offences committed by the employee and to protect the employee. The obvious areas of concern for most employers and employees are Corporate Hospitality and Gifts.

Hospitality and Gifts

Hospitality, promotion or expenditure seeking to improve a company image, present products or establish cordial relations is a legitimate part of doing business. Such behaviour is not intended to be made a criminal offence.

However hospitality or gifts must be reasonable, proportionate and made in good faith, with the overall aim of improving the image of the organisation.

The importance of clear Policy is underlined by a case where an employment tribunal found that an employee who breached her employer’s inducements, gifts and favours policy by accepting a laptop and printer from a contractor was fairly dismissed. (Esam v DSG Retail Ltd).


There is Ministry of Justice guidance (MOJG) which includes six principles for bribery prevention as follows:

  • Proportionate procedures
  • Top level commitment
  • Risk assessment
  • Due diligence
  • Communication
  • Monitoring and review


Based on this, compliance will require more than just having procedures and will need to be managed in a similar way to Health and Safety.

Whatever else is needed, commitment from the top of the organisation is essential. The MOJG states that an organisation does not need to put bribery prevention procedures in place if there is no risk of bribery. Nonetheless, an Anti-Bribery and Gifts and Favours Policy will be an inevitable requirement to communicate the Leadership intention.

Many organisations already have such Policies in place. These should most certainly be thoroughly reviewed and republicised. By way of illustrating the importance of this, the MOJG recommends a formal statement issued by top level management which outlines the organisation’s commitment to carry out business honestly and openly and which makes it clear there will be zero tolerance towards bribery.

Once Top management has made the Policy clear, a risk assessment may be an appropriate next action and any actions flowing from that should be proportionate to the risk.

For example the MOJG also recommends that senior managers are selected and trained to lead anti-bribery work and training. Activity such as this should be considered in proportion to the risk.