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How costly has the Bribery Act been?

The Bribery Act 2010 has been in force for more than four years, and according to the Ministry of Justice, is regarded internationally as world-leading anti-bribery legislation.

The Act created four offences:

  • offering, promising or giving a bribe
  • requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe
  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery.

Companies can be prosecuted for failing to prevent bribery offences committed anywhere in the world. As a result, many companies have now made bribery risk assessments and put in place prevention procedures to reduce that risk.

But the Government does not want companies, and SMEs in particular, to 'seek a disproportionate, burdensome and costly response to the Act' because of a lack of understanding of its 'impact and purpose'.

Awareness and impact of the Bribery Act

A report commissioned to investigate awareness of the Act and its impact found that two-thirds of SMEs had either heard of the Bribery Act or knew about its provisions on corporate liability for failure to prevent bribery.

And more than eight in ten SMEs who had heard of the Act knew that the legislation encompassed bribery offences committed overseas.

Of those who were aware of the Bribery Act, almost three-quarters thought their company knew enough about it to implement anti-bribery procedures.

Costs of compliance

But what about the costs of doing so?

Professional advice had cost SMEs an average of £3,740 and a median cost of £1,000, while implementing bribery prevention procedures had cost an average of around £2,730 and a median of £1,000.

The median was lower because a relatively small number of larger companies spent much more than the others, raising the mean.

The average spend was clearly linked to company size with micro companies spending the least (mean spend of £1,030) and medium companies the most (mean spend of £4,610).

'Encouraging' progress

Mike Penning MP, the Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, said, 'The extent of knowledge and awareness evidenced by this report are encouraging. Many businesses have assessed the bribery risks they face and taken steps to mitigate them.

'The research reveals that SMEs are generally taking a proportionate, pragmatic and low-cost approach to winning business without bribery.

'There is, however, no room for complacency. The report identifies the need for the Government in association with key stakeholders to continue the work in communicating the simple key messages about the Act and existing guidance.'

Acas publications and services

Acas provides information on Bribery and the principles of the Bribery Act 2010. It also has detailed Help for small firms, including eight step-by-step guides aimed at keeping you on the right side of the law in key areas of employment, including contracts, grievance, pay, performance, absences, engagement and redundancy.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and can help you with compliance issues. See Workshops, projects and business solutions or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

Acas training is also available on Investigations, Discipline and grievance, Contracts and terms and conditions, and Employment law update.


For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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