Gifts for teachers at Christmas – a Bribery Act concern?

Following reports that the Royal Mail has taken a very robust approach to the institution of Christmas tips, many people (employers and employees alike) have been startled into considering whether the Bribery Act impacts on their traditional gift giving, tipping and client entertainment over the Christmas period.

Apparently Royal has informed staff that Christmas tips are allowed (which will certainly be good news to staff) but that they should never be accepted in return for favours such as earlier delivery etc (which has presumably always been the case).  To minimise the risk, Royal Mail staff have been urged to decline gifts of over £30 and to ensure that any hospitality of over £25 is approved by a line manager.

Over-reaction?  Possibly.

The Bribery Act was not introduced to prevent normal corporate hospitality or tipping.  They key factor in order for bribery to exist is motive.  Giving someone £5 to induce (or reward) the doing of something improperly (or not doing something at all) will be a bribe – the value of the gift is immaterial.

If the gift is simply a gift in recognition of a properly delivered service – by way of thank you – then it is not a bribe.  If it was tipping taxi drivers, hairdressers, the milkman and restaurant staff would be unlawful.

Of course it does raise the thorny issue of what to get a child’s teacher at Christmas.  Is the gift a thank you for the work performed in settling that child into a new class – or to improperly curry favour on reports in the coming year………?!