Making sure we all stay on Santa’s nice list this year!

30 November 2016

By Jonathan Holmes & Kelly McInnis

At this time of year, we all have gift giving on our minds and this is no different in the corporate world. Gift giving is a long standing corporate tradition and it is especially popular during the holiday season so an appropriate time to refresh our memory on how the Bribery Act 2010 impacts gift giving.

But how does the Bribery Act impact holiday gift giving you ask?

The Bribery Act 2010 came into effect in the UK on 1 July, 2011 and, at that time, there was a significant spotlight shone on what gifts organisations could give to their customers, and when. In the wake of an untested piece of legislation there was, unsurprisingly,  concern in organisations that any form of gift giving could fall foul of the new act and be considered illegal. The important question that the Bribery Act actually prompted, however,  was the ‘why’, the reason behind the gift itself.

The Bribery Act does, broadly speaking, prohibit the giving of a ‘financial or other advantage’ to someone with the intent that they will perform a relevant function improperly in return but its purpose was never to forbid organisations from giving reasonable and proportionate gifts. The main intention of the act, as far as corporate giving is concerned, is to prevent bribery under the guise of gifts and hospitality.

For example, you won’t be on Santa’s nice list if you give this year’s  sought-after holiday kids toy (hatchimals according to the children in our lives!) to a procurement director for their children with the aim that future purchasing decisions will be in your favour regardless of the overall value of that toy.

A crucial message from the Bribery Act is to consider the underlying intent behind any gift giving.

So what types of gifts can you give?

The Bribery Act does not, understandably, include an exhaustive list on what organisations can and can’t give to their customers as it is very sensitive to context. However, in our experience and with the holiday season upon us, here are our thoughts on how Santa might rate  festive gift giving:

You’d be on Santa’s nice list:

  • Calendars
  • Mouse and drink mats
  • Coffee mugs and low cost pens
  • Company branded low-cost merchandise such as stress balls, umbrellas, sports bags etc.
  • Invitations to modest Christmas parties or lunches
  • Reasonable socialising such as UK sports events with the host present

You’d better watch out:

  • Overseas sporting events and entertainment with the host present
  • Expensive gifts such as gold fountain pens

You’d be on  Santa’s naughty list:

  • Lavish food hampers or cases of fine wine and the like
  • Expensive watches
  • Invitation to any sporting or entertainment events where the host won’t be present
  • High-end gadgets
  • Items delivered to a home address

Does Santa have any top tips for making sure his work force doesn’t fall foul of the Bribery Act?

Yes. We always remind our clients that the only statutory defence should an act of bribery occur is to show that adequate procedures were in place beforehand to reduce the risk of such an incident. Therefore, we recommend organisations:

  • Undertake a comprehensive bribery risk assessment
  • Draw up relevant gift policies
  • Train all staff and suppliers on the gift giving and receiving policies to ensure policies are adhered to at every level of the organisation
  • Consider maintaining a gift registry

And remember, the holiday season is still a time to be merry and give thanks to our valued customers and suppliers – we all simply need to ensure that every gift and act of hospitality remains transparent, proportionate and reasonable.

To discuss the issues raised in this blog please contact us:

Jonathan Holmes | Partner
Email: [email protected]

Kelly McInnis | Manager