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The Bribery Act: what does this have to do with HR?

This guide was last updated in August 2011.

The Bribery Act creates an obligation for organisations to prevent their employees engaging in bribery. Organisations are responsible for that activity unless they can show that they have 'adequate procedures' in place to prevent it.

Government guidance clarifies what your organisation needs to do to put 'adequate procedures' in place to prevent bribery. These procedures will be an organisation's only defence to the new offence introduced by the Act of failure to prevent bribery. If an organisation is convicted of this offence, it will face an unlimited fine and may also be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.

What does the guidance say?

The guidance explains that procedures only have to be proportionate to the size and nature of the business. Modest risks only require modest procedures to mitigate them. There are six guiding principles which are:

  • proportionate procedures;
  • top-level commitment;
  • risk assessment;
  • due diligence;
  • communication, including training;
  • monitoring and review.

What does this mean for my HR department?

Some steps which HR should be taking are outlined below.

Conduct a risk assessment now: if the risk of bribery within your organisation is low, the guidance indicates that the steps required to rely on the 'adequate procedures' defence can reflect this low risk.

Review procedures: to ensure they are 'adequate', the following procedures should be reviewed:

  • hospitality policies;
  • any policies which relate to gifts, promotional expenditure, charitable and political donations or demands for facilitation payments;
  • bonus policies;
  • disciplinary policies;
  • whistleblowing policies;
  • direct and indirect employment contracts.

Demonstrate top level support: consider issuing a formal statement from your Board of Directors or equivalent forum to employees confirming the importance of the issue. Consider also having one board member or senior employee who is responsible for compliance with the Act.

Communication and training: your organisation will need to demonstrate that you have made employees aware of the issues in order to rely on the 'adequate procedures' defence through communication and training.

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