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The Bribery Act 2010 comes into force today, 1 July 2011.

The Bribery Act applies to all UK companies and the penalties for breach can be substan­tial, consisting of unlimited fines and jail sentences.

The Act creates four criminal offences:

  • Offering, promising or giving a bribe;
  • Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe;
  • Bribing a foreign official to obtain or retain business; and
  • Failure by an organisation to prevent bribery by those acting on its behalf.

Employers will not be able to rely on ignorance of their employees’ actions as a defence and will be liable unless they can demonstrate appropriate steps were taken to protect against bribery.

Employers should assess their potential risk. They must also put in place robust policies and procedures, which are clearly communicated and enforced across the workforce. The government’s guidance, which was published earlier in the year, gives an indication of what is required now that the Act in force.

For advice contact Lyons Davidson’s employment team.