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Playing it straight

It goes without saying that honest dealing should form the foundation of every business. Today, thankfully, we’re less likely to encounter some of the shady practices that often used to blight business arrangements, when it wasn’t uncommon for companies to offer extra-curricular inducements to secure contract wins. But it’s still important to be vigilant (1).

In 2010, legislation (2) was introduced to promote anti-bribery practices among businesses by making it a criminal offence to offer or accept bribes. The Bribery Act also requires businesses to prove they have adequate procedures in place to prevent acts of bribery designed to gain a commercial advantage (3). It’s important for organisations to adhere to the guidelines as sentences are harsh – the maximum penalty for those found guilty is a ten-year prison term with an unlimited fine.

All forms of bribery are proscribed

The terms of the act are clear: it’s an offence to ‘give, promise or offer a bribe, agree to receive or accept a bribe’ either here in the UK or abroad. This explicitly bars any business from either offering inducements or from accepting them, even if they haven’t been solicited.

Further, an organisation will be deemed to have committed a criminal offence if it fails to prevent any acts of bribery that are intended to gain a business advantage (4). It’s crucial, therefore, that businesses not only veto the practice but can demonstrate that policies and procedures are in place to prevent any transgression.

Adopting a defensive position

All of which means that businesses can’t simply turn a blind eye to acts of bribery. The only defence available, should a representative of the company be shown to have broken the law, is that the company can show that it took all reasonable measures to prevent the practice.

Any anti-bribery policy, however informal, should include an explanation of the legal position, a statement that any such activity would be regarded as gross misconduct (5), procedures for reporting suspected bribes and the requisite checks and balances to ensure transparency.


1. Anti-bribery policy - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from:

2. Participation E. Bribery Act 2010 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from:

3. Participation E. Bribery Act 2010 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from:

4. Participation E. Bribery Act 2010 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from:

5. Can an employee be dismissed instantly for bad behaviour? | Acas Workplace Snippet September 2012 | Acas [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from:


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