The Bribery Act 2010 finally comes into force this Friday, the 1st July 2011. The Act completely rewrites the law in this area, and will have far-reaching implications for employers, directors, partners, and senior personnel.

A number of new categories of offences are created, including:

  • giving and receiving bribes;
  • bribing a foreign public official; and
  • the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery.

Failing to prevent bribery

This is a strict liability offence carrying potentially unlimited fines, and maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years for any senior officials involved. It shifts responsibility firmly onto the shoulders of organisations to put adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery by their directors, employees, consultants, and agents. HR has an important role to play in ensuring that your company has adequate procedures in place including clear policies, regular training, high visibility of anti-bribery practices, and whistle blowing policies that are fit for purpose.

In addition to the penalties under the new scheme, there are serious reputational issues that companies may face. Those not already taking steps to protect themselves should take action now.