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How to Write an Anti-Bribery Policy

Last updated on 20th December 2023

An anti-bribery policy is a policy that sets out clear rules and regulations regarding potential bribes and how employees should handle any bribes that they encounter. Having an anti-bribery policy helps protect your employees from the consequences of knowingly or unknowingly accepting a bribe.

It also ensures your employees do not advertently or inadvertently offer bribes. Having an anti-bribery policy also helps to protect the reputation of your company.

Although an anti-bribery policy is not required by law, the Bribery Act 2010 makes it illegal for a citizen of the UK to pay, give or receive a bribe. If your company, or an employee of your company, conducts or accepts bribery, both you and the employee concerned could be held to account. Offences committed under the Bribery Act carry a heavy fine or even a jail sentence.

A company or business that fails to prevent employees or other people associated with the company from committing acts of bribery can be prosecuted under the Bribery Act.

However, if an employee of your company pays or receives a bribe, either directly or indirectly, the company may be entitled to a statutory defence and be protected by law if you have an adequate anti-bribery policy that has been signed by all employees.

Under the Bribery Act, it is illegal to offer, promise, give, request, agree, receive, or accept bribes. It is also illegal to solicit something of value to influence the actions of an individual or individuals. The UK government recommends that any company, business or organisation that has any risk of being exposed to bribery should have an anti-bribery policy.

Bribery offence

The Bribery Act has four main categories of offence

  • Offering, promising, giving or facilitating any type of bribe.
  • Requesting, accepting, agreeing to accept or receiving a bribe.
  • Bribing, planning to bribe or attempting to bribe a foreign public official.
  • Failure on the part of the corporate entity (business, company, organisation) to prevent bribery from occurring.

Enacting an anti-bribery policy ensures your employees, or any individuals associated with your business, know how to handle incidences or the risk of bribery. Corporate entities must ensure that the standards of their anti-bribery policy are in line with the level of risk faced.

Both large and small businesses may need to employ an anti-bribery policy. The Bribery Act applies to both public and private sectors and is applicable across every employment industry. If there is even a small chance of your business being exposed to bribery, you will need to create an anti-bribery policy.

It is important to ensure that all employees and associated individuals of your business are familiar with the anti-bribery policy. It may be beneficial to ask employees to sign the policy to demonstrate their understanding and acceptance of the policy.

The policy should always be accessible to your employees, so it may be a good idea to leave a paper copy in a staff common area or a digital copy in a place that all employees can access. Many businesses also choose to publish their anti-bribery policy on their website. This helps to convey the ethical and moral standing of your business.

The aims of an anti-bribery policy 

Your anti-bribery policy should aim to:

  • Demonstrate a complete understanding of the Bribery Act 2010 and any other relevant government guidelines related to bribery or anti-bribery.
  • Explain exactly who the policy is relevant to.
  • Explain the responsibilities of individual employees, the responsibilities of management and of the company as a whole.
  • Demonstrate ways to reduce or eliminate the risk of bribery.
  • Clearly explain the potential consequences of being involved in acts of bribery. This should include consequences within the company and consequences according to the law.
  • Provide clear and concise rules about accepting gifts.
  • Provide guidelines on what are reasonable levels of hospitality, promotions and other goods and services offered by your company.
  • Clearly explain what constitutes conflicts of interest and how to avoid this.

How to ensure an anti-bribery policy is effective

Once an anti-bribery policy has been created, it is important to ensure that the policy is effective. There are several methods a business can implement to ensure the effectiveness of its policy.

  • Perform a risk assessment – Consider all the bribery risks your business could potentially face. Performing a risk assessment can help to reduce or eliminate the potential risks that are both foreseeable and significant. A risk assessment can also ensure that you identify all the risks relevant to your organisation. For more information about performing risk assessments, consult our knowledge base.
  • Regularly monitor and review the policy – The potential risks your business faces may change over time. Furthermore, new government guidelines may come into effect or updates may be made to the Bribery Act. It is therefore important to perform regular reviews and update the policy when necessary.
  • Ensure all employees are familiar with the policy – Being confident that all employees and other associated individuals are familiar with the policy will help to protect your business from incidences of bribery. It also places some onus on the employees and makes them accountable for their own actions.
  • Commitment from management, shareholders, CEOs and other top-level individuals – Leading by example is an easy way of increasing the effectiveness of your policy. Top-level individuals can ensure your company projects a moral and ethical image that makes it clear you do not engage in bribery. You can also take an active role in ensuring your staff do not engage in bribery.
  • Support whistleblowing – It is important to encourage and support your employees to report any instances of bribery that they experience, observe or suspect. However, whistle-blowers are only likely to report bribery if they feel safe and supported to do so. Ensure your company has clear channels for reporting bribery. The whistle-blower should be able to report their concerns without fear of experiencing any retaliation or negative consequences. You should also ensure that all concerns are recorded correctly and that there is a clear system to follow.

The steps in creating an anti-bribery policy

Creating an anti-bribery policy can be a daunting task. There are several important steps to follow to ensure your policy is accurate and effective.

  • Familiarise yourself with the law and government guidelines – This includes laws in the country that your business is based and laws in any other countries where your company conducts business.
  • Ensure you have a thorough understanding of bribery – Understanding exactly what constitutes bribery is important. The term bribery is not open to interpretation, and it is important that everyone is clear on what may be considered bribery. This may be especially true in terms of gifts and hospitality. Having a clear understanding of bribery will help to ensure your anti-bribery policy is accurate.
  • Undertake a bribery risk assessment – As mentioned earlier, a risk assessment is an essential step for developing an anti-bribery policy. It can help tailor the policy to your business and help to highlight the most significant risks.
  • Pay attention to the six principles laid out in the Bribery Act:
    Proportionate Procedures – Are the policies and procedures aimed at preventing bribery proportionate to the bribery risks your company faces? Are they aligned to the nature and scale of your business?
    Top-Level Management Commitment – This could be the CEO, board of directors, owner of the company or senior manager. The top-level management should be completely committed to preventing bribery.
    Risk Assessment – Assessments should be conducted before an anti-bribery policy is created and at regular periods after its creation and implementation. This ensures the policy is always accurate and effective.
    – Due Diligence – Due diligence procedures should be applied throughout the policy.
    Communication – The policy needs to be implemented and understood throughout the company. Communication could include ensuring familiarity with the policy, training and discussions.
    Monitoring and Review – A pre-agreed timeframe for reviewing and monitoring the policy is recommended.

These six principles are essential for ensuring your anti-bribery policy is specific to your company. They also help to ensure the success of your policy.

It is the responsibility of the CEO, the board of directors or a top-level member of the company to nominate a person or persons to be responsible for the creation and publication of the anti-bribery policy.

If your company is large enough to have a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), or a similar member of staff, they will likely be responsible for leading the creation and implementation of the anti-bribery policy. For smaller companies, designating the most relevant member of staff is recommended.

It may also be beneficial to employ the help of a professional adviser or lawyer to ensure your anti-bribery policy fully complies with the law. This individual can also ensure the company is complying with other relevant laws and regulations, such as data and privacy laws.

Many companies then choose to designate an individual who will ensure compliance with the policy. This is likely to be a top-level member of the company or a senior member of staff. This individual should be named in your anti-bribery policy.

Writing An Anti-Bribery Policy

What to include in an anti-bribery policy

Anti-bribery policies may differ from organisation to organisation, depending on the risks they are most likely to encounter and the proportionate procedures. However, there are some core fundamentals that should be included in all anti-bribery policies.

  • Exactly what the policy covers – This can be considered as an introduction to the anti-bribery policy. This section is likely to include why the policy has been created and who is expected to adhere to the policy. In this section, you can also detail what the reader can expect to encounter and learn in the policy.
  • The policy statement of your corporate entity – This establishes the commitments of the company and top-level management. It may include promises from the company and a code of conduct that they pledge to follow. This should include specifics related to anti-bribery. It may also include references to government laws and guidelines that the company intends to adhere to and how they plan to avoid any bribery within their company.
  • Who is the policy applicable to? – This helps to protect the company and ensures all individuals fully understand how the policy applies to them. Ensure this section encompasses all individuals and corporations who are associated with your business. It is important not to leave any loopholes in this section. This means if an individual associated with your business is involved in bribery, the business is more likely to be protected from a Section 7 charge – “Failure to prevent bribery” – under the Bribery Act.
  • Definitions of bribery and anti-bribery – This ensures there is no confusion, uncertainty or debate about what does and does not constitute bribery.
  • What will be considered bribery and how to always ensure anti-bribery rules and regulations are adhered to – This section should be separated into individual categories relating to the different forms of bribery. Example categories are as follows:
    – Gifts, including monetary gifts.
    – Hospitality.
    – Charitable contributions.
    – Political contributions.
    – Facilitation payments for any services that are offered or can be provided by the company.The policy should make clear exactly what is and is not deemed acceptable within these categories. The policy should be as specific as possible, to ensure no confusion. It should also detail how any legitimate gifts or hospitality that is received unrelated to bribery is recorded. Additionally, employees should be aware of how any other financial records related to these categories are documented.
  • What the employee should do if they encounter bribery – This section should detail the specific steps the employee should follow if they encounter or suspect bribery. It should also include the whistleblowing process and details of the individual they need to inform. It should also explain ways in which the employee will be protected if they do raise a concern or make a report.
  • Other responsibilities of employees in relation to anti-bribery – This section could encompass a number of responsibilities, for example:
    – Complying with the anti-bribery policy at all times.
    – Ensuring they stay up to date with the policy and any reviews that are made.
    – Their responsibility to report any incidences of bribery.
    – Always staying alert to incidences of bribery within the company.
    The policy should provide as much information as possible to ensure employees are fully aware of the expectations and their responsibilities.
  • Any additional training the employees need to undertake – This should detail any training the company will provide concerning the anti-bribery policy. It should also provide details of how often the training should be refreshed. For more information on training related to anti-bribery, visit here.
  • The individual who is responsible for reviewing and updating the policy – This should include details of the individual (ensure this is updated if the individual in question leaves the company) and how often a review should take place.

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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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