It’s getting towards that time of year, woo hoo! Christmas is coming, and your corporate hospitality budget is probably going to take a huge dent as you arrange to take clients out to lunch and thank them for their loyalty and custom over the past year.
Corporate hospitality is recognised as an important part of business, but before you get booking in all those Christmas lunches, it’s important to be aware of the Bribery Act.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you’re going to be slipping some money under the table to try and get your clients to sign a new contract with you, but it’s worth knowing what the rules are, so that you don’t unwittingly fall foul of them.
The Bribery Act isn’t there to stop businesses getting to know their clients, meeting, networking and building relationships through hospitality is perfectly valid.
However, it is worth having it in the back of your mind when hosting events. For example, if you give a gift to a client during the course of a corporate event, it potentially could be seen as a bribe – probably not if it’s a small gift, like a branded mouse mat or calendar – but if, for example, you happen to make a large donation to a client’s charity right about the time your contract is up for renewal, then this looks a bit dodgy.
Giving of gifts (I know, we’re being real party poopers here) could leave an organisation open to receive accusations of operating unlawfully or unethically, so it’s important that you take the following into consideration.
You need to consider why you’re giving the gift, is it simply a token of thanks? That’s ok, but if you’re giving it in the hope that you’re going to get something in return, then it probably isn’t. The gift or event should really be in proportion to the relationship you have with them (if you look to be too lavish, then this could arouse suspicion); a good rule of thumb is that if you think your client or customer could reciprocate with something of equal value if they wanted to, then it’s probably going to be ok, but if they’re not, then it could be seen as trying to buy their custom.
Consider the timing of it, as mentioned before, if you’re doing it around the time of a contract renewal, and it’s completely out of the blue, then you could be questioned about your motive.
You should advise your employees on what’s acceptable or not, and this also is applicable for accepting gifts too, make it clear that they should declare anything to you, as you could be held liable if they’re seen to have accepted a bribe.
So just approach with common sense, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. The more open, honest and transparent you are with your customers and with your employees, the more you’ll save yourself from not only embarrassment, but possibly something more serious that could damage your reputation.
And happy entertaining!