Neil Dwyer, Head of the Employment team at Hay & Kilner, is helping businesses take action to comply with the Bribery Act.
As the three year mark approaches since the Bribery Act was introduced, now is a good time to review matters. In response to the new law, many businesses commenced steps to ensure compliance, without implementing them fully and some did nothing at all. It appears that the absence of publicised enforcement action has caused good intentions to be left on the back burner.
There are signs that all that is about to change and businesses now need to act to put preventative measures in place.
Whilst Bribery Act prosecutions were initially slow, they have picked up pace over the past year. In August last year the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) brought its first prosecution under the Act against three individuals who were charged with offences of making and accepting a financial advantage. In March this year, five individuals appeared in Birmingham Crown Court on Bribery Act offences and in April the National Crime Agency arrested thirteen individuals for corruption. There are indications more prosecutions are in the pipeline.
By way of a reminder, the Bribery Act created new criminal offences of:
As an employer you can be held responsible for acts of bribery committed by “associated persons”, which includes your employees, agents or contractors.
How can an employer defend itself?
A defence is available to employers who have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
Guidance requires businesses to focus on six high-level principles and advocates a “risk-based proportionate and common-sense approach to the design of policies and procedures“. With this in mind, at Board or Senior Management team level employers should carry out the following tasks:
In carrying out these steps, your business will be in a better position to avoid risk and prosecution.
Is there any benefit from “corporate self-reporting”?
The previously held assumption that self-reported misconduct would lead to a civil settlement being offered rather than criminal prosecution has been changed by new guidance, which states that self-reporting will not automatically avoid this. Instead, to be relevant, it must form part of a “genuinely proactive approach” adopted by your corporate management team.
Hay & Kilner’s employment team offers a free audit and gives advice on implementing the correct protective policies.