Anti-bribery training: what you really need to know

As compliance managers and training managers will (hopefully) already be aware, the Bribery Act 2010 will be coming into effect on 1st July this year. That means the clock is now ticking – there are less than three months left in which organisations can train their people to ensure they and the business stay on the right side of the law.

It can, as with any legislation, be difficult to identify the absolute key points amongst the pages and pages of legal language. This is especially true because bribery itself and bribery legislation are nothing new. So allow me to do the hard work for you and highlight what you really need to know about the Bribery Act 2010.

  • It’s tough. In fact, it’s been described as ‘the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world’. As a result, it’s easier to breach than previous legislation. What’s more, ignorance or the lack of corrupt intent is no excuse.
  • The results of such breaches are severe. Reputational damage or a fine for the organisation might not matter hugely to individual employees. Criminal prosecution and jail sentences for individuals at all levels of the corporate hierarchy might.

But don’t panic just yet. If your organisation is found to have breached the Act, there’s a full defence as long as you can show that you had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery. So what does this mean?

  • What counts as ‘adequate procedures’ varies. If yours is a large organisation or one that operates overseas, you’ll face a bigger risk of bribery than a small company or one that only operates within the UK. As such, your bribery prevention measures and due diligence need to be more thorough.
  • Your commitment to preventing bribery needs to be demonstrated from the top, with senior leaders ensuring that everyone understands you don’t tolerate bribery. This is a serious responsibility – don’t just assume it goes without saying. You also need to make sure all staff work within your policies and procedures, so training is advisable.

So it’s acknowledged that the training required for a smaller or lower risk organisation is different from the training required for larger or international organisations. But it is required nonetheless.

The Bribery Act guidance published by the government is a hefty 45-page document. You might still want to read this at some point, but for now I’ve pulled out the key points relating to training (with my emphasis added).

  • ‘Training provides the knowledge and skills needed to employ the organisation’s procedures and deal with any bribery related problems or issues that may arise.’
  • ‘General training could be mandatory for new employees […] but it should also be tailored to the specific risks associated with specific posts.’
  • ‘Training ought to achieve its objective of ensuring that those participating in it develop a firm understanding of what the relevant policies and procedures mean in practice for them.’

And this brings us to the crux of the matter. You’d be wise to invest in some form of anti-bribery training for your staff, and you’d be wise to make sure it’s the best investment possible. Whatever form of training you choose, we recommend:

  • Focusing on the practical application of the Act. Keep it short and to the point. What situations should employees be aware of as potentially risky? What action should they take if they find themselves in such a situation? All the associated policies, procedures and clarifications can be stored and accessed elsewhere.
  • Providing an element of role-based tailoring. All staff need a basic level of training, but some of your staff, for example those in procurement, will be higher risk where bribery is concerned. Opt for a training solution that acknowledges those differences, making it a better user experience and also more time-efficient for your business.
  • Including both corporate and individual perspectives. To make the message hit home, you’ve got to go beyond talking about reputational damage. For example, illustrate how that can translate to a decline in business, which in turn can lead to cutbacks in salaries or even in staff. Make the Bribery Act matter to each individual.

There are plenty of off-the-shelf courses available (including our own customisable offering), and if you’re designing your own training, maybe some of our compliance tips will be useful?