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Bribery Act Delayed

15th February, 2011

Regular readers of The Tribunal may remember that the Bribery Act 2010 (‘The Act’) was listed as one of our key employment law changes to watch out for in 2011. However, the Government has since announced that the Act will no longer be implemented in April, as originally planned.

Amongst other provisions, the Bribery Act 2010 introduces a corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, which could result in company executives facing personal criminal liability if they are found guilty of conniving or consenting to offering or receiving a bribe. Companies themselves could also be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.

At the end of January, the Ministry of Justice announced that the new legislation will be delayed until new guidance on the law is published. A publication date has not yet been provided but three months must pass between publication and the Act being implemented.

Ministers are currently consulting with businesses to create the guidance which will deal with how the Act is to be interpreted and enforced. Much criticism has been raised in respect of the Act’s uncertainty, particularly as to the distinction between a bribe and corporate hospitality and gifts.

Given the current economic climate, the Coalition Government is keen to encourage growth and investment in businesses and has recently been looking at removing restrictions on businesses, particularly small businesses. Putting the Bribery Act on the back burner, at least until guidance for companies has been issued, could very well be another example of this.

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