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24th January 2016

Employee dismissed for taking a bribe

Bribery is the act of giving or receiving something of value to influence a transaction. The Bribery Act 2010 consolidated the law on bribery into a single piece of legislation, and set out clearly the types of offences that could be committed under the Act. It is the role of the Serious Fraud Office to enforce the Bribery Act 2010 if they believe that there has been a breach that could amount to a crime.

Employers should be careful to carry out risk assessments in respect of bribery in order to minimise the possibility that bribery could be taking place.

Blake v Home Office

In the recent case of Blake v Home Office, the employment tribunal considered whether it was fair to dismiss an immigration officer because he had taken, and not immediately reported, a bribe.

Ms Blake was employed by the Home Office and worked in Croydon. She had accepted money, in the amount of approximately £200, from an immigration offender, and even though she had eventually returned the money, she was eventually dismissed for gross misconduct following disciplinary action. Prior to this incident, her disciplinary record had been clean.

The Home Office considered that, although she had returned the money and reported the bribe, she had not made a timely report of the incident. This was in breach of their anti-corruption policy. The Home Office had given guidance to its staff in respect of the Bribery Act 2010, and this guidance required an attempted bribe to be reported immediately.

Ms Blake claimed that she was unfairly dismissed. However, the employment tribunal decided that the Home Office was entitled to come to the conclusion that the Claimant should have been dismissed for taking a bribe contrary to the Bribery Act 2010, and in breach of the Home Office’s anti-corruption policy.

Ms Blake’s position was taken into account by the Tribunal, and it was noted that, as she performed an important public function requiring a high degree of trust, her conduct was serious enough to warrant dismissal.

A note for employers

It is important for any employer to have a policy setting out the steps their employees are required to take to avoid breaching the Bribery Act 2010. Whilst bribery can, of course, take place at any level, the risk is clearly higher in the case of employees placed in a position with a high level of trust and authority. This might include those employees providing a public function, such as the police or a Member of Parliament, where their integrity must be maintained, or those entrusted with handling and protecting money, such as accountants or those working in a bank.

All employees should be made aware of their employer’s policy on anti-corruption, which would enable them to identify when an offence may be being committed, and training should ideally be offered on a regular basis to ensure employees are aware of their responsibilities and obligations.

If an employee is then in breach of an anti-corruption or anti-bribery policy, the above case of Blake v Home Office shows that this conduct could amount to gross misconduct and be capable of immediate dismissal.

Anthony Fox, Employment Partner, Napthens LLP – QCS Expert Employment Law Contributor

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