Too many UK employers are still unaware of and unprepared for the changes to business policies and procedures required when the Bribery Act comes into force on 1 July, a law firm has warned.
According to a survey undertaken among directors and senior managers at 120 companies with annual turnover of more than £100 million by lawyers Russell Jones & Walker, a worrying 11% were unaware of the existence of the Act, while a third had heard of it but were unaware of the details.
As a result, a massive 84% had put no anti-bribery training for relevant staff in place, while a further 22% had no plans to implement policies or procedures to help them deal effectively with the strictures of the new regulations.
Rod Fletcher, head of business crime and regulation at Russell Jones & Walker, said: “There is no doubt that a more rigorous legal framework is required in order to govern the dark arts of corporate hospitality. However, the preparation of UK businesses for compliance with the Bribery Act is, at best, uneven, at worst negligent.”
To conform, organisations would need to alter some business practices and introduce relevant systems and training, but the survey illustrated that many were simply unaware and unprepared for such changes, he added.
For example, if managers discovered ‘inappropriately excessive’ client hospitality being provided by staff in their organisation, 51% would simply ‘have a quiet word’.
If they suspected that a contract had been lost because of payments made to the awarding party by rivals, only three out of 10 would report their concerns to the authorities. Instead some 38% would prefer to raise their worries with the awarding party itself.
Although a huge 55% of those questioned either suspected or were sure they had lost business to rivals as a result of excessive corporate hospitality, 30% did not believe the Bribery Act would have any impact on the way their industry operated.
While the banking and finance sector was to date most prepared for the Act in compliance terms, media, advertising and entertainment firms were the furthest behind in introducing relevant policies and procedures, the survey showed.