A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Crash course - An innocent gift - or a bribe?

A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Crash course - An innocent gift - or a bribe? - One of your managers has received a Christmas hamper stuffed with vintage champagne, fine wines and smoked salmon from a supplier who is bidding for a big order you're going to p

by ALEXANDER GARRETT

One of your managers has received a Christmas hamper stuffed with vintage champagne, fine wines and smoked salmon from a supplier who is bidding for a big order you're going to place in the New Year. Should you insist it's sent back? Are your other employees receiving lavish gifts? And will those engraved ballpoint pens you sent to customers seem pitifully inadequate by comparison?

MAKE THE RULES CLEAR. Most large companies have specific guidelines on giving and accepting business gifts, usually included in the employees' code of conduct, code of ethics or the employment contract. Simon Webley, head of research at the Institute of Business Ethics, says: 'A lot put a limit on the value of a gift you are allowed to accept - say, pounds 25. Others say that only gifts of a trivial nature may be accepted - perhaps a diary at Christmas.'

INCLUDE YOUR CONTRACTORS. Some companies spell out to contractors that they risk losing their contract if they give gifts or inducements to the firm's employees. Guy Dehn, director of whistleblowers' organisation Public Concern at Work, says: 'It takes two to tango, and it takes two people to be corrupt. So you should send out just as strong a message to suppliers as to your own people.'

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