The Bribery Act came into force in 2011, replacing previous anti-corruption statute and common law . Although it has most impact on businesses which trade overseas, even domestic traders should check the way they secure their contracts and whether it affects corporate hospitality. Paul Ridehalgh (PR), partner at law firm Marsden Rawsthorn, explains what the Act means for small firms
PR: “The Act outlines four offences of bribery and introduces the corporate offence of bribery, as well as making it easier to prosecute offenders than previously.
“The Ministry of Justice has produced guidance (pdf) to help businesses of all sizes and sectors understand what procedures and policies they can put in place to prevent bribery, to understand the difference between bribery and hospitality, and avoid falling foul of the Act.”
PR: “Firms should review what they do, who they’re working alongside, who they’re contracting with and how they’re maintaining those client relationships. They should also make their workforce aware of what is expected of them, by including it in published policies."
PR: “All businesses are required to have adequate procedures in place to prevent staff and anyone else who works on their behalf – such as agents – giving or receiving bribes. Importantly, this includes anyone representing the business overseas.
"The question of whether you are affected by the Act will depend on what your firm does. If you do foreign business and large value contractual work requiring governmental consents, then it will almost certainly have an effect on you. For firms dealing with consumers, such as retailers, it won’t have much effect at all.
“If you deal with foreign companies or officials in some countries, it was previously the norm to pay fees to facilitate what government officials should do anyway and to speed up the process — it wasn't even frowned upon. However, the Bribery Act applies to UK firms which trade abroad, meaning that such facilitating payments are likely to be considered a bribe.
“For those that negotiate deals and contracts with other companies and government officials, ensure that your hospitality is proportionate. It will still be fine to take a client for a meal at the local restaurant, but disproportionately lavish gifts may be considered an offence.”
Written with expert input from Paul Ridehalgh of Marsden Rawthorn.