The line between bribery and goodwill can be blurred when sending Christmas gifts to your clients, and to stop you from getting in trouble when you’re genuinely being kind this Christmas, compliance experts have shared their top tips.

While how much you spend is ultimately up to you, some employers expect every gift to be declared, others only if it exceeds the nominal amount e.g. £25. If your business is guilty of bribery, the penalty could range from unlimited fines to a 10-year prison sentence, so you want to make sure it’s within the law.

Following compliance e-learning company Skillcast’s tips will help to ensure that any gifts you give or receive are on the right side of the law.

  1. Confirm you have a legitimate business purpose

You should only give corporate gifts if there is a legitimate business purpose. Examples of gift-giving that would be considered legitimate include those associated with building goodwill or enhancing relationships with customers or suppliers.

  1. Ensure that your corporate gift is proportionate

Is the value of the gift reasonable, or could it be seen as lavish? Even if the value falls below that in your company policy, it may be disproportionate if you have little working contact.

  1. Be entirely transparent with corporate gift-giving

It is important to inform your manager about the gift and declare it in your company’s gifts and hospitality register. If you haven’t, people are bound to ask, why not? You should always fully disclose the details of corporate gift-giving to avoid any suspicion of bribery.

  1. Consider the timing & context

Are relevant events happening around the same time? For example, are there job vacancies, a tendering process, or contract negotiations? If so, the gift may be seen as an attempt to influence decisions unduly. Be mindful and aware of this before gifting.

  1. Check your company limits on the value of gifts

Don’t exceed any threshold or limit stated in your company policy. Jewellery, theatre tickets or expensive wines are bound to seem extravagant, so it’s best to stick to something of token or novelty value. Don’t try to get around the rules by offering or accepting vouchers instead!

  1. Implement annual corporate gift limits

It’s wise to place an annual cap on how many gifts can be given to a single client or received by a particular employee each year. If that limit has been reached, maybe you should be skipping any festive gift-giving this year.

  1. Think about the risk to your reputation

Reputational damage to a company is just as bad as financial, if not worse. Decisions around corporate gift-giving could negatively affect your reputation. If you think that such a gift may end up being perceived in a bad light, it probably isn’t worth the risk.

  1. Seek advice if you have any gift-giving doubts

Contact your compliance team or manager if you are unsure. For instance, you may have to accept gifts to avoid offending customers or suppliers. Such gifts could be donated to charity instead. You should also get prior approval before giving any gifts to senior executives, government officials or compliance officers.

  1. Use your common sense with corporate gifting

Many gifts are perfectly reasonable and legitimate, especially around the festive season. But err on the side of caution, as authorities don’t go easy on bribery suspects just because it’s Christmas. If you still have doubts after seeking advice, it is best not to engage in corporate gifting.

  1. Learn how to decline gifts graciously

Use role-play to practise declining gifts and hospitality graciously. Don’t agree just because you don’t know what to say to avoid causing offence. It is perfectly acceptable to refuse a gift and save yourself from being accused of involvement in bribery.

Joanne Swann, Content Manager, WorkWellPro
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.