Christmas Gift Giving

As we head towards Christmas, many organisations may be wondering if it is lawful to give, and receive, seasonal gifts to both staff and customers.

Since the Bribery Act was introduced in 2010, it is a common misconception that giving gifts will always constitute bribery. However, this is not necessarily the case. As outlined in the Act, giving gifts is considered bribery where the intention of the gift is to induce or reward impropriety. Therefore, any gifts to reward hard work or to thank clients for their custom will rarely be classed as bribery and should not cause any issues, provided the giver does not intend to induce or reward improper performance.

This, inevitably, means that gifts can always be accepted unless the person accepting this is being bribed. This is usually where they have requested the gift or agreed to receive the gift in order to give the gift giver an advantage. Such a situation can be difficult to identify, particularly when the person giving the gift is from outside the organisation, and organisations should be prepared to take steps to tackle this.

How to handle gift giving

One method is to implement a procedure to handle the received gift and make a record of what the gift is, its estimated value, who sent the gift, who the recipient was and the connection between the two parties. A similar process can be used for gifts offered from outside the organisation, though the reason for the provision of this should also be noted. Organisations should also take the time to remind all employees of bribery laws and any anti-bribery policies and procedures in place to ensure offences are not being committed by anyone in the business.

Where management are considering giving gifts to staff, there are additional considerations to take in to account alongside bribery. They should ensure that they are offering gifts to all staff, from juniors to senior managers, to reduce the possibility of claims of unfairness and bias. This is even more important where employees have protected characteristics as they could claim the failure to be given a gift is due to this and is, therefore, discriminatory. 

Organisations may also need to consider what type of gift they will offer. The usual seasonal offering of alcohol has the potential to offend non-drinkers and those with certain religious beliefs, while other offerings have similar issues. It may be prudent to offer an array of similarly priced gifts and give staff the opportunity to choose the gift they wish to receive. Whilst ruining the element of surprise, this removes the potential for disgruntled employees to make a complaint.

It is also important to bear in mind that the exchange of gifts will need to be done with social distancing in mind. To this end, it should be considered how gifts can be exchanged safely, such as quarantining them for 72 hours before they are collected or sent out to staff working from home. 

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