Question

I thought that the Bribery Act only affected companies who do business abroad, but one of my UK customers said that it applies to all UK businesses. Is this correct?

Answer

Yes, your customer is correct. The Bribery Act 2010 will come into force on the 1st July 2011. All commercial organisations who are incorporated or formed in the UK or carry on their business in the UK are covered by the Act. The Bribery Act creates a number of new criminal offences concerning bribery, including liability for commercial organisations who fail to prevent bribery within their organisation by an 'associated person'. An 'associated person' includes the organisation's employees as well as third parties acting on behalf of the organisation for example an agent. However, commercial organisations will have a full defence if they have 'adequate procedures' in place to prevent bribery.

Government guidance on 'adequate procedures' confirms that the type of procedures will vary according to the size and nature of the business. For example, a large commercial organisation which conducts business overseas will have a higher risk of being exposed to bribery than a small organisation who only conducts business in the UK. However it is advisable that even low risk commercial organisations adopt some basic anti-bribery procedures.

The type of procedures commercial organisations should consider adopting include:-

  • A formal anti-bribery policy.
  • A gifts and hospitality policy (gifts and hospitality are not unlawful under the Bribery Act, but commercial organisations should consider limiting their use or requiring that prior approval be obtained to minimise the risk of bribery).
  • Amending disciplinary procedures so that breach of the anti-bribery policy could constitute gross misconduct.
  • Training employees and agency staff on anti-bribery.
  • Amending whistleblowing policies to enable employees to report incidents or allegations of bribery.
  • Ensure that senior management are committed to anti-bribery by for example issuing a statement that the organisation adopts a zero tolerance approach to bribery.

Therefore, all commercial organisations should undertake a risk assessment to determine how exposed they are to bribery and put the appropriate procedures in place to deal with those identified risks. The Government guidance on anti-bribery procedures and a quick start guide for small employers is available at www.justice.gov.uk .