By Max Clarke

Ahead of the implementation of the 2010 Bribery Act on June 1st, the Ministry of Justice has today published a set of guidelines to help businesses avoid being penalised for deliberate or inadvertent corruption.

The guide outlines common sense steps including researching the culture of countries in which business is carried out, conducting simple internet searches with potential business partners overseas. The guide also suggests contacting the UK Trade and Industry for advice, as well al British diplomats.

Key points for the business owner to be aware of include; organisations can be held liable for failing to prevent individuals bribing; corporate hospitality is not viewed as bribery; ‘facilitation payments’ are bribes, both under the revised act and under existing laws; and that legal defence is available for companies accused of bribery, but who had implemented measures to prevent its occurrence.

“We strongly support the principles behind the Bribery Act and welcome this much-improved final guidance," said Katja Hall, Chief Policy Director at Britain's voice for business and industry, the CBI.

“The Government has listened to concerns that honest companies could have been unwittingly caught out by poorly-drafted legislation and has clarified a number of important areas. These include the extent of liability through the supply chain, joint ventures, due diligence and corporate hospitality.

Hall continued: “businesses now need to use the next three months to revise their anti-bribery policies ready for the Act’s implementation. Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office must take a common-sense approach to enforcement, ensuring it is reasonable and risk-based. This will help avoid creating a culture of fear that could undermine UK competitiveness.”

For the typical small business, changes introduced in June will have little impact on their organisation, the guide states. Some commentators even argue that the Bribery Act will benefit the UK’s competitiveness.

The Ministry of Justice’s full Bribery Act guidance can be viewed on their website