Blog: Bribery – the price to pay?

Graham Millar
Graham Millar

Although it may grab the headlines, work related bribery and corruption isn’t the preserve of the world of sport, writes Gilson Gray LLP partner Graham Millar.

 

The recent high-profile episode involving Sam Allardyce and resulting in his departure from the role as England manager brings to the fore the topic of bribery and corruption.

So should reasonable employers really be concerned about its prevalence or impact in the workplace, or is it somehow restricted to the lucrative world of sport?

Most businesses would like to think that they, and their employees, are completely above the potential to be bribed. Yet I am certain most people assumed that the high salary being paid to Sam Allardyce would be enough to remove the temptation to earn an extra ‘few quid on the side.’

Under the Bribery Act 2010, a bribe is defined as “a financial or other advantage” offered, promised or given to induce a person to perform a relevant function or activity improperly, or to reward them for doing so.

The Bribery Act introduced a separate criminal offence for a commercial organisation who has failed to prevent bribery by an associated person for its benefit. Associated person will include all your employees, as well as consultants, agency workers and even volunteers.

The consequences of breaching the Bribery Act are severe - Individuals can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment; businesses can receive an unlimited fine.

So how can a business realistically protect itself and what are the dangers posed should they not?

Every employer needs to be able to demonstrate that they have “adequate procedures” to avoid bribery and corruption. Rather helpfully there is no statutory definition of adequate procedures and it will involve a number of court cases before we have a clearer idea of how this will be interpreted.

The way to establishing adequate procedures involves a number of key measures.

First on the agenda has to be the development of a policy – by making sure there is a clear and detailed anti-corruption and bribery policy within every staff handbook.

Evidence of Communication is vital – make sure that you can establish that everyone has seen the policy, from top to bottom.

Education is an important factor as it is no longer sufficient to tick the box saying you have a policy. You’ll need to be able to establish that proper training was provided to all your employees about their obligations.

Finally, it is key to keep one eye on maintenance and developments – make sure there is ongoing monitoring and review of your policies, ideally with one person being responsible within your organisation.

It all sounds relatively straightforward, however, I suspect there will be a few anxious meetings within the English FA over the coming weeks to find out whether or not there is such a policy within the FA, whether big Sam had been made aware of the policy, and whether he had received his training. If not, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Crown Prosecution Service shows an interest in this case.

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