The impact of the Bribery Act 2010 stretches beyond the criminal realm. An employment tribunal recently had to decide, in a case called Blake v Home Office, whether an immigration officer had been fairly dismissed for gross misconduct for accepting a bribe.
It became apparent that she had accepted money from an individual involved in the immigration process. The officer returned the money, thought to be around £200, and reported the bribe. On the facts, there was insufficient evidence to meet the criminal standard of proof for bribery and so no charges were brought against her, but she was dismissed for gross misconduct. She claimed unfair dismissal.
The employment 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. So it was reasonable, therefore, for the employer to doubt 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. The dismissal for gross misconduct was fair.
Under the Bribery Act, not only is receiving a bribe an offence but also failing to prevent bribery, and this is particularly relevant for employers. They have a defence if they can show the organisation had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
Employers should ensure they have anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies and that their contractual provisions for a gross misconduct summary dismissal (in other words, dismissal without notice) expressly refer to a breach of these policies. There should also be a separate, express clause in employment contracts requiring employees to comply with the employer’s policies and procedures, including its anti-bribery and anti-corruption policy.
Employers should ensure that training on the policies is given to all staff on a regular basis, so they understand how the policy operates in practice and their obligations under it (for example, an obligation to report an attempted bribe immediately). Employers should keep a signed register of employees undertaking the training, as this will assist them in demonstrating that they took all ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent the bribery and comply with the Act. Requiring employees to re-read the anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies on an annual basis, and sign and date a written confirmation (this could be done electronically) confirming that they have read and agree to comply with the policy’s terms, would also be helpful.
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