Bribery in the workplace: fair dismissal?

21 January 2016

The Bribery Act 2010 is back in the spotlight again but this time in the employment arena illustrating that its impact stretches beyond the criminal realm. Under the Act, not only is receiving a bribe a criminal offence but also, under section 7, failing to prevent bribery of associated persons which is particularly relevant for employers. There is a defence to section 7 if the organisation had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

An employment tribunal in Blake v Home Office ET/2302074/2014 recently found that an immigration officer with the Home Office was fairly dismissed for accepting a bribe, despite the fact that she returned the money and reported the bribe which was thought to be around £200. The claimant was dismissed for gross misconduct after it became apparent that she had accepted money from an individual involved in the immigration process. On the facts there was insufficient evidence to meet the criminal standard of proof for bribery and so no charges were brought.
The tribunal focused on the fact that the claimant occupied a position of trust and fulfilled an important public function in her role as an immigration officer, which required her to carry out her duties impartially. It also noted that the Home Office’s policy prohibited bribe-taking and required the immediate reporting of an attempted bribe.  She had failed to make a timely report.  The employer therefore reasonably doubted the employee’s honesty and integrity, because it found her explanation of the bribe and her claims about when she reported it to be implausible and inconsistent. These considerations ultimately outweighed the fact that she returned the money, reported the incident and had a previously spotless employment record.
Employers are advised to ensure that their contractual summary dismissal provisions expressly refer to a breach of the Employer’s Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption Policy. There should also be a separate express contractual provision obligating employees to comply with the employer’s policies and procedures, including, without limitation, its Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption Policy.

Employers should ensure that training on the policy is given to all staff on a regular basis, so that they understand their obligations under it, for example an obligation to report immediately an attempted bribe and so that they understand how the policy operates in practice. Employers should keep a signed register of all attendees, as it will assist them in any ‘reasonable steps’ defence under the Bribery Act, as will requiring employees to re-read the Anti-Corruption and Anti-Bribery Policy on an annual basis and sign and date a written confirmation (which could be done electronically) confirming that they have read and agree to comply with the policy’s terms.

You can find out more about the Criminal Law team's work relating to Bribery here.

Further information

Should you be affected or have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, please contact Áine Kervick or a member of our criminal litigation or employment teams.

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