Festive Gifts ‘Not A Bribery Act Concern’

Companies Urged Not To Follow Royal Mail’s Lead This Christmas

05.12.2011

Businesses across the UK have been urged by a corporate crime expert at Irwin Mitchell to not overreact when it comes to protecting themselves from risk of prosecution for breach of the Bribery Act this Christmas.

Kevin Robinson, a Partner in the national law firm’s Regulatory and Criminal Investigations Group, has made the call after reports revealed the lengths that Royal Mail have gone to in order to ensure its workers do not put the body at risk of legal action under the terms of the Act, which came into force earlier this year.

He said guidance from the company, which included urging workers not to accept gifts of a value more than £30, demonstrated the lack of understanding that exists in many leading UK businesses about what the Bribery Act was introduced to achieve.

“As Christmas comes ever closer, many firms will be carefully considering the issue of how they can accept gifts from clients and other parties in a manner which prevents them from falling foul of the law,” Kevin explained.

“We would urge businesses not to fall into the same trap as the Royal Mail, which has got its stance wrong on two counts. Firstly, receiving a gift greater than a specific value does not mean you will be accused of bribery.

“Giving someone £1 could be a bribe, giving someone £100,000 may not be. The determining factor is not the amount of money but what was in the mind of the giver and receiver when it was offered. If it was for the purpose of rewarding or inducing impropriety then there will be bribery no matter how much money changes hands.”

Kevin added that the giving of gifts at this time of year is also a traditional act that many people enjoy doing.

He outlined: “More significantly it is a gift in recognition of past good service. If that good service has been delivered properly throughout the previous 12 months and that is what is being recognised then it is not a reward for anything else.

“The problem with this stance is that it would not work in other areas. For example, not rewarding someone for good service would bring an end to tipping in both restaurants and to taxi drivers.

“It is understandable that businesses want to stay on the right side of the law, but they need to ensure any restrictions placed on workers are done so in a fair and proportionate manner. We would urge any companies still getting their heads around the Act to get specialist legal advice as soon as possible.”