The Bribery Act came into force on 1st July 2011 and covers the criminal law relating to bribery. Bribery is the offering or accepting of any gift, loan, payment, reward or advantage for personal gain as an encouragement to do something which is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust.

It is a criminal offence to offer a bribe, accept a bribe, bribe a foreign official and, as a commercial organisation, fail to prevent an act of bribery by someone working on its behalf.

If guilty, penalties could include up to ten years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. The company could also face prosecution and be liable to pay a fine.

There is a defence for a company if it can show it took measures to prevent bribery taking place. One such measure could include the implementation of an ant-bribery policy. This policy should include a commitment to uphold the law; a clear statement that bribery will be treated as gross misconduct that could lead to summary dismissal; information on reporting lines in the event of being offered a bribe or if a bribe is suspected; checks and auditing procedures to ensure transparency and legitimacy; and a reminder of the company’s whistle blowing policy.

It is not a legal requirement for a company to have an anti-bribery policy and in very small companies it may be enough simply for the employer to have a discussion with his or her employees to make them aware that bribery is not accepted within the company.