Most Small Businesses Unprepared for Bribery Act

Cash - Bribery ActThree quarters of small firms have not prepared for the Bribery Act, which came into force on 1 July, research from Sage has revealed.

The Sage survey of more than 1,000 small businesses found that 71% did not understand the Bribery Act, or their obligations under the new legislation.

The Act applies to all businesses and introduces tougher penalties for those involved in corruption. Businesses face unlimited fines or even imprisonment unless they can show they had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it was “imperative” that business owners familiarise themselves with the new legislation. A key point of concern, it said, was that the Act makes small firms responsible for ensuring the compliance of any agent or third-party supplier connected with their business, regardless of where they are based around the world.

“What you need to do will depend on your type of business, but it’s crucial that firms assess their exposure to risk,” said BCC policy adviser Abigail Morris.

“It’s also important to be able to demonstrate that you have taken adequate steps to prevent acts of bribery by having a clear policy in place. This can make a real difference to your case if a bribery claim should be made against your company,” she added.

According to solicitor David Gordon, founder of law firm DG Law, the main risk areas for small firms were international trade, dealing with public officials and rules surrounding corporate gifts and hospitality.

“If you’re a low risk, low volume trader, you may only need to implement a simple anti-bribery policy and ensure that staff are familiar with the key points.”

“But if, say, you’re an engineering firm dealing with big public sector contracts in a foreign country, you’re likely to need strict policies and procedures in place, that cover every eventuality.”

Where corporate hospitality was concerned, much of the practical interpretation of the new law would revolve around what was seen “proportionate and reasonable”

“It’s really about common sense. For instance, if you normally take a client to the Derby for the day, suddenly treating them and their entire family to a luxury Monaco Grand Prix trip might look excessive. This is what is likely to cause problems from a legal point of view.”

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