Christmas is the season of giving. But a nice tradition in private can lead to big problems in the business world. There is a fine line between a nice gesture and willful bribery. Gifts for customers, suppliers and business partners may be of no concern if they are appropriate, but what ‘appropriate’ means is open to interpretation. “There are no statutory value limits above which a gift is on a par with corruption,” explains Walter Schlegel, compliance expert at TÜV Rheinland. Compliance is the technical term for adherence to regulations in business.
Small Non-Cash Gifts
In the public sector, the rules are stricter than at private companies. For example, depending on the state, garbage collection workers cannot accept monetary gifts at all or only up to a value of €5. For teachers, nurses, and postal workers too, small gifts in kind like sweets or a bottle of wine are better than cash gifts. The permissible value depends on the relevant authority. As a guideline, gifts worth up to €25 are appropriate. There is an exception for the self-employed. GPs or freelance workmen, for example, may accept a more valuable gift without incurring a legal risk.
In the event of non-compliance, the worst-case scenario involves not only losing your job but even a custodial sentence. It is therefore better to consult your superior or your company’s compliance officer, if there is one. This creates transparency and avoids the semblance of corruption. As a giver, it is good to find out in advance if the intended gift is allowed to be accepted. In addition, the present should always be sent to the workplace and never a private address. This means the gift-giving is not hidden. If you receive expensive gifts, it is recommended to return the gift stating that it unfortunately cannot be accepted.
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