In April 2011, the Bribery Act is due to come into force in the UK. This will have an effect on contractors working for small and medium sized enterprises in the months preceding its implementation.

At present the guidance notes for this legislation has not yet been published but SMEs are still expected to be setting in motion steps they will be required to take to comply to the legislation. Speaking to Contractor UK, Winston and Strawn solicitors commented that such companies have “ample time” to prepare. They continued by stating that any company found to be in breach of the legislation would find them in receipt of “little sympathy” as a result.

The legislation places a responsibility on all SMEs to ensure that all contractors working for them comply. This is the case even when contractors are not operating in this country. The Act criminalises bribery in all forms – taking a bribe, offering a bribe and not taking the appropriate steps to prevent bribery. SMEs now need to test their contractors to ensure that they are aware of all relevant policies and procedures.

Wilson and Strawn warned; “If you get it wrong you risk prison. Your business risks unlimited fines, blacklisting from EU contracts and forfeiture of proceeds of illegal deals.”

They concluded: “Whether you know about it or not on top of your own obligations, you will be criminally responsible for bribery by business partners worldwide if your business was intended to benefit or benefits, directly or indirectly.”

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