Christmas is a time for mince pies, sitting around a warm fire, festive markets and of course gifts. Although we all like to pretend that presents are the least important part of Christmas the wonderful warm feeling of giving and receiving the perfect gift is hard to beat. When it comes to corporate gifts, however, SME owners must be careful to ensure that taking a gift from a client is within the boundaries of the law and does not breach anti-bribery and corruption legislation.
It may come as a shock to realise that accepting an innocent gift from a client could involve considering high-level laws put in place to prevent white-collar crime. Nevertheless, to protect your business and its reputation, it is vital to have a clear anti-bribery policy in place that includes the giving and receiving of gifts.
The line between an innocent gift and a potential bribe
In the UK bribery and corruption is governed by the Bribery Act 2010 (the Act). Accepting gifts and corporate hospitality is perfectly legal under the Act so long as the gifts and hospitality are reasonable and proportionate.
When evaluating whether a particular Christmas gift is safe to accept consider the following:
- intention – what is the purpose of the gift? If a supplier or client has given you a gift basket to say thank you for your company’s custom or hard work over the year there is unlikely to be a problem. Should you suspect the gift is being given in order to persuade you to sign a new contract or agree to a tender, legal advice should be sought before accepting it
- value – how much is too much will depend on your industry. A bottle of vintage champagne may be proportionate if your business provides luxury goods, however, the same gift given to a small IT firm may require consideration regarding its appropriateness
- timing – fortunately, because Christmas is traditionally associated with gift-giving, accepting a modest present is unlikely to breach the Act. Take care, however, if the Christmas gift has been sent by a company or person with whom you are involved in a dispute or wishes to work with you on a business project
The Act defines bribery as:
“… giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so. This could cover seeking to influence a decision-maker by giving some kind of extra benefit to that decision maker, rather than by what can legitimately be offered as part of a tender process.”
To ensure your best interests are protected when accepting corporate gifts at Christmas time have clear anti-bribery policies and procedures in place and record all gifts received. If you are unsure as to whether or not to accept a particular gift, seek advice from an experienced Commercial Law Solicitor.
Get legal assistance from LawBite
If you are unsure whether or not to accept a gift from a client do not hesitate to contact LawBite expert employment and commercial lawyers to clear out all your doubts.
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