The Bribery Act 2010 comes into force in April 2011 and has been described as the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world.
Failure to comply with it could result in 10 years' imprisonment, unlimited fines and/or extradition to prosecute offences committed abroad.
HR managers might be asking themselves what all of this has to do with them.
The answer: You will be instrumental in assisting your Board and senior management team to:
- draft policies, procedures and contractual provisions to address the requirements of the Bribery Act
- ensure that all staff receive training (which will be necessary in order for companies to defend the new criminal offence of 'failing to prevent bribery')
- review and monitor the effectiveness of your organisation's anti-bribery mechanisms
- check that adequate staff vetting practices are in place
- prevent staff fraud
And because it extends to acts committed outside the UK, the Bribery Act will affect both UK-based and international businesses.
Companies familiar with the existing anti-corruption regime in America should be aware that unlike in the US, facilitation payments will not be lawful under the UK regime.
The legislation will affect your entire organisation - from the Board through to third party agents (whether or not they are your employees).
There is a statutory defence, but this will only be available to companies if they can demonstrate that adequate procedures are in place to prevent those associated with it from committing bribery offences. This means that having the correct policies in place will be vital, but just having a piece of paper will not be enough.
Organisations will have to do more than pay lip service to the new law; they will have to actively implement their anti-bribery policies and procedures and ensure they are fully embedded throughout the business.
There is an ongoing obligation for businesses to monitor risk and compliance. Clearly the level of risk will vary depending on various factors such as the sector in which the organisation operates, its size and structure and its client base. It will therefore not be enough to simply adopt an off the peg, 'one- size-fits-all' anti-bribery policy. Organisations will have to invest time in devising, drafting and implementing a policy relevant to them.
The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on its draft guidance about commercial organisations preventing bribery. The consultation period ends on 8 November 2010.
HR managers should be asking what their organisations are doing to prepare for the law, and if necessary ensuring their senior management is aware of these looming requirements.