Workplace Rights: Blitz on backhanders

The Bribery Act, expected to come into force this year, has serious implications for employers.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It creates a range of offences, all punishable by an unlimited fine or up to ten years' imprisonment. These include bribing another person, requesting, accepting or receiving a bribe and bribing a foreign official. Worryingly for managers, there is a further offence of failure by a commercial organisation to prevent an associated person committing bribery, which will cover a company's employees, consultants and service providers anywhere in the world. But, importantly, the organisation has a defence if it had 'adequate procedures' to prevent bribery. One crucial ingredient would be a whistle-blowing policy to encourage staff to report allegations and suspicions of corrupt practices. Employers would be wise to carry out a comprehensive audit of their exposure to bribery and ensure they have effective policies, checks and controls in place. Government guidance on anti-bribery measures and procedures is due soon.

- Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com

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