The implementation of the Bribery Act is set to be delayed, following government confirmation that guidance surrounding the Act is to be reviewed.
The delay follows the Government’s earlier confirmation that it was reviewing the Act prior to its launch.
The Ministry of Justice had said that it would reassess the Act as part of the Growth Review, which will look at the how the Government can create the best conditions for private sector growth.
However, today’s (Monday) announcement means that the Act will now not come into force in April as planned, due to a three-month notice period that will be put in place before its implementation.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said today: “We are working on the guidance to make it practical and comprehensive for business. We will come forward with further details in due course.
“When the guidance is published it will be followed by a three-month notice period before implementation of the Act.”
Several new offences will be introduced under the Act, including a corporate offence for failing to prevent bribery by people working on behalf of a business, and a rise in the maximum penalty for individuals found guilty of bribery from seven to 10 years’ imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.
XpertHR senior employment law editor Stephen Simpson said: “The Bribery Act continues to have a tortuous route to implementation. It was one of the last pieces of legislation from the Labour Government and employers have been promised guidance from the Conservatives since the November consultation closed.
“Many employers will be breathing a sigh of relief that they have now been promised guidance three months in advance of the Act’s implementation. Judging by the large number of queries the XpertHR compliance team has had on this issue, employers will need this time to review their current policies and educate staff on the new rules.”
John Smart, partner at the fraud investigation and dispute services at Ernst and Young, said the delay would work against employers who have already done some of the groundwork in preparation for its implementation. He said: “Those companies which are taking the issue of bribery seriously and making changes to their culture and controls will be at the biggest disadvantage if the Bribery Act is delayed. In fact, delaying the Act will only serve to increase the time during which these forward-looking companies will be exposed to this disadvantage.
“Continued uncertainty about how the Act will be enforced and when it will come into force will only serve to increase the disparity between the best and the worst companies. Responsible companies will want to stay within the law even if it is not enforced.
The critical factor is that companies need more certainty regarding the enforcement of the Act, rather than the current reliance on ‘the discretion of the prosecutor’,” Smart added.
XpertHR resources on the Bribery Act 2010