Christmas is undoubtedly the season for giving…
But some workplace gifts could spill over into bribery territory.
And if that’s the case, you could receive more than you bargained for this Christmas – like unlimited fines or even a prison sentence…
You might think that taking a client out for a festive meal or giving them a festive gift is a great way to thank them for their support this year. But you need to tread carefully.
James Potts, Director of Legal Services at Peninsula, explains how to avoid falling foul of the law during the festive season:
“The Bribery Act 2010 states that it is illegal, to offer, promise, request, give, receive, or accept bribes, either directly or indirectly.
“Fundamentally, it all comes down to the intention behind the gift that will determine if there is foul play.
“In the eyes of the law, sending a gift to staff to thank them for their hard work isn’t a bribe. Neither is giving clients a gift as a gesture of goodwill in the run-up to Christmas.
“If you have no expectation of getting something in return, you shouldn’t be at risk. But sometimes, if the real intention behind the gift is unclear or there are any doubts, it could lead to an investigation
“I suggest that before giving or receiving gifts from clients, colleagues, or suppliers this Christmas, ask yourself these three questions to ensure you stay above board.
What’s the timing of the gift?
Giving a gift before a performance meeting, or before a new contract is awarded for example, could muddy the waters and look as though there’s intent to sway behaviours or decisions.
Is there a record of the gift?
Keeping a record of all gifts exchanged can be useful, to prove:
- who sent the gift
- the cost of the gift
- the reason behind the gift
Failure to keep accurate records can look suspicious, which is something you want to avoid in the case of an accusation of bribery.
What type of gift is it?
Steer clear of giving cash, or lavish gifts where the recipient would be unlikely to be able to return the favour. These are both instances that give the impression of corrupt intent – particularly where the sender doesn’t know the receiver well.
“The best way to curb the risk of any wrongdoing – intentional or not – when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, not only at Christmas but at any time of year, is to introduce an anti-bribery policy.
“After all, neglecting to take steps to prevent bribery is also a crime under the Bribery Act 2010.
“Your policy should include clear information about anti-corruption laws to eliminate any confusion between bribery and gift-giving; outline the consequences for bribery like fines, prosecution, damage to reputation; and establish the following:
- what counts as bribery
- rules around giving gifts to customers and suppliers
- rules around accepting gifts from customers and suppliers
- rules around giving gifts to colleagues
- the steps to take if an employee thinks they’ve received a bribe
- how to report someone who’s committed an act of bribery
- rules around the type of gift that is acceptable to give/receive
- requirements when sending a gift (does it need to be in the company name?)”