There was widespread surprise when FIFA confirmed it was awarding the 2022 Summer World Cup to Qatar; a country:
- whose Summer conditions make the playing of football almost impossible (leading to FIFA deciding to move the tournament to take place in Winter, thus disrupting all the major football leagues around the world),
- where homosexual “acts” are illegal,
- and which does not have the best record in respect of its treatment of migrant workers (since being awarded the World Cup in December 2010, around 1,200 migrant workers have died in Qatar).
The FBI has now arrested 14 FIFA members on allegations of bribery. These allegations do not just focus on the Qatar decision but are also in relation to other decisions taken by FIFA members over the years. Bribery in the workplace is therefore still a significant issue for some corporations and something about which employers must remain vigilant.
The Bribery Act 2010 (“the Act”) which came into force on 1st July 2011 makes it an offence for a person to offer, promise or give a financial advantage to another to induce them into carrying out a ‘relevant function or activity’ improperly, or reward them for doing so.
Many types of ‘financial advantages’ are covered under the Act, including gifts, hospitality and entertainment, political or charitable donations, sponsorship and publicity. It is important to note that it is still an offence under the Act to offer or promise a bribe; the bribe does not actually need to be provided. Further still, individuals can be liable even if they unknowingly give or receive a bribe.
Under the Act, employers can also be liable for the infringing behaviour of its staff. To paraphrase FIFA’s current President (at the time of writing) Sepp Blatter: how is an employer supposed to know if its members are involved in bribery? Mr Blatter should be suitably encouraged to note that, under the Act, it is a defence if the employer can show that it had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery. It is therefore extremely important for employers to ensure that appropriate policies are in place to prevent offending action and reduce any such liability.
In summary, employers should:
- Have a bribery policy in place;
- Make sure that employees are aware of the policy and, where necessary, trained as to the employer’s stance on accepting gifts and hospitality etc.;
- Ensure the policy is followed;
- Make employees aware of the criminal and financial penalties that can be imposed for acts of bribery.
If you would like to discuss this or any other employment issue in any more detail, or would like a bribery policy to be drafted for your company, please contact me on 01908 660966 or 01604 828282 or drop me an email.