The True Intention of a Christmas Gift?

Christmas is a time for giving, particularly between family and friends. However, this tradition often extends to the workplace, where gifts are exchanged between businesses and their clients as a thank you for services provided throughout the year. When this occurs it is important that businesses bear in mind the legal position when it comes to the Bribery Act 2010.

  • The Bribery Act makes it an offence to offer, promise or give a bribe, and request, agree to receive or accept a bribe.
  • The Bribery Act also sets out a strict liability offence for commercial organisations where they fail to prevent bribery by any associated person.
  • It can serve as a defence for businesses if they can show that they have “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery being committed by its workers.

Transparency International, an organisation committed to tackling global corruption, sets out a helpful plain language definition of bribery. “The offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal, unethical or a breach of trust. Inducements can take the form of gifts, loans, fees, rewards or other advantages.

The key part of this definition is that to be a bribe, the intention of the giver must be to induce a particular action. It is therefore less relevant what the gift, or its value is. That said, a gift of higher value is more likely to be scrutinised.

When gifts are exchanged at Christmas, it would be prudent for businesses to consult their anti-corruption and bribery policies. These policies should set out the procedure which must be followed. This could include noting the gift on a bribery register, providing its value and stating the reason for the gift. It is also not unusual for businesses to introduce a blanket ban on accepting gifts above a certain value, especially in regulated sectors. Steps such as these will often help a business when it seeks to rely on the adequate procedures defence.

In summary, it is unlikely that a Christmas gift genuinely given for the purposes of saying thank you will constitute a bribe for the purposes of the Bribery Act. A prudent employer should however have suitable policies and procedures in place to ensure the intention of a gift is not misconstrued.

If you have any questions arising from the above topic, please contact the Employment Team at Sintons for further information.

Come back tomorrow for Day 10 of our series which will review the risks associated with the office Secret Santa.

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