Bribery in the Workplace

At what point is an invitation or gift a bribe?

I am the manager of a large IT project in a service company. An important supplier has invited me to a seminar on a new product in Tuscany. This takes place on Friday, but the seminar participants are allowed to stay until Sunday at the supplier company's expense.

We would stay and dine in a renowned winery. We would also be promised a wooden box of the estate's top growth as a parting gift.

I would be very interested to learn about the new product. However, I find the luxury accommodation and the wine gift massively exaggerated. It almost borders on bribery.

Am I allowed to accept such an offer at all? Since we are a young company, there are unfortunately no internal regulations in this regard.

Lukas T.


Lukas rightly has a bad feeling about the supplier's offer. Does the company simply want to present him the new product or does it want to subtly bribe him?

Labor Law Does not Regulate anything

Labor law does not regulate gifts and invitations. Nor does it define a clear monetary amount that employees may accept as a gift.

So can Lukas safely go on a Tuscany weekend?

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Of course not! Lukas has a duty of loyalty to his employer. This prohibits the acceptance of bribes, whereby it does not matter whether the interests of the employer are actually harmed or endangered as a result.

In this context, invitations and gifts can prove problematic. Especially if, as in Lukas' case, the sheer dimension of the gift is very large.

Up to Three Years Imprisonment for Private Bribery

Criminal law must also be considered. If Lukas accepts the offer, it could be construed as private bribery. Lukas risks a fine or up to three years' imprisonment.

Incidentally, not only a bribed person can be punished, but also the bribing person or organization. Companies must therefore be prudent in structuring their promotional events.

Careful with more than 100 Francs

The fact that Lukas is skeptical about an invitation including a gift worth hundreds of francs speaks for his moral compass. But where does the line lie?

To find out, employees can orient themselves on the one hand to what is customary in the industry, and on the other hand they can use their common sense.

A rough guideline is usually 100 Swiss Francs. For a ballpoint pen or a box of chocolates, you can go for it without hesitation. A case of wine, on the other hand, can be tricky. Rather reject an offer too much than too little!

Internal Regulation Creates Clarity

Lukas' company is strongly advised to clearly state in a regulation document up to which amount or equivalent value gifts and invitations may be accepted. This is the case in many companies and employees can use it as a guideline.

Since Lukas does not have any such regulations, he would be well advised to discuss the matter with his employer. Since he would like to attend the presentation of the new product, his employer might be willing to pay for his round trip to Tuscany and for a hotel. This would make everything clean and transparent.


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