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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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There I work at a UK PLC as a project manager and contracted

Customer Question

Hi There
I work at a UK PLC as a project manager and contracted an external company for fixed set of deliverables at a fixed cost. A Scope of work document was presented to the Project Director and the Product Owner. The cost, the scope and the named resources at the external company who would perform the work were listed. The company and resources credentials were checked and they were found to have the appropriate skills and experience for the task. I have no personal stake in the external company. However my wife is contracted by them and was part of the team and Scope of Work document. Her skills and experience were vetted by the aforementioned project stakeholders. The product Owner knew of our relationship, the Project Director didn't. The divisional director who sits above all three of us has accused me of breach of trust and nepotism and tells me I have broken the law. This was not my intention, my only intention was to get the best team with the right skills at the best cost and felt I have done this. However I am now forced to resign having been told I have broken the law. Below is the paragraph form my contract that covers such issues.
We (the XXX PLC Company) take a zero tolerance approach to bribery and corruption. You shall comply with applicable international and local anti-corruption legislation and related XXX PLC and external guidance, legislation and procedures at all times including our Policy on Procedures for Prevention of Bribery and Corruption, our Fraud Policy, and our Hospitality and Gifts Policy (copies of which are available on the company Intranet), the UK Bribery Act 2010 and the United States of America Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977. Failure to do so will be treated as a disciplinary matter and may result in the immediate termination of your employment.
Have I broken the law and is this fair?
Regards
Alex
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Were there any specific policies in place at your workplace preventing you from dong this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Not that I am aware of, and if any exist they were not communicated to me in writing. As far as I know the paragraph that I inserted is the only governing policy.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
How long did you work there for and what are you hoping to achieve in this situation please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I have worked there for 1 year in March and my hope is to retain the current project team, including my wife, as I am convinced they have the right skills and experience and the appropriate track record. I have a long standing professional relationship with my wife dating back to the 90's as we are in allied media professions and have worked with her on many other projects in the past 20 years. This is the first time this has been an issue.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
I see you have resigned though, are you actually hoping to remain in employment with them?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I'd be happy to stay if there is no disciplinary action, I don't want to stay in a diminished and weakened role after being disciplined for something I do not consider an offence. I'm more concerned about the impact on the project and it's outcome. If me leaving resolves the conflict of interest then so be it, but it would be best for the project if the current team remains intact, that's my primary concern. If we can agree there is no offence I'll stay, if not I'll move on. I am trying to ascertain if there is indeed an offence under the paragraph inserted. Anything pertaining to specific company policy can be argued that I was not aware of. The documents on the company intranet do not specifically cover this issue so my concern is have I broken the the UK Bribery Act 2010 and the United States of America Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977. Being in breach of unspecified policy is one thing, being in breach of actual law is another

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Just as a starting point, I cannot comment on the United States of America Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977 and whether you have acted in breach of that legislation – it is a foreign law and you need to approach a US lawyer to comment on that.
In terms of the Bribery Act 2010, you can find the relevant offences here:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/23/crossheading/general-bribery-offences
I would not say that your situation falls within any of the described offences that amount to bribery under that legislation. So as far as breaking the law is concerned, that is unlikely in the circumstances. What you may be in breach of instead is some of the internal policies and procedures which they refer to and these would be individual to the employer so you must check these to see if they apply. Sometimes companies could have specific restrictions on work being carried out with other companies or individuals where there is a connection with existing employees, especially if this was not disclosed or approved in advance. That is because some people may take advantage of the situation and give the work to a friend or relative, not necessarily because it is the best person/company to do the job, but because of their connection. So do check the relevant policies to see if anything in there prevents you from doing what you have done.
In terms of keeping your employment if the employer wants you gone, that could be difficult and that is mainly because if you have been continuously employed at your place of work for less than 2 years then your employment rights will unfortunately be somewhat limited. Most importantly, you will not be protected against unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal. This means that your employer can dismiss you for more or less any reason, and without following a fair procedure, as long as their decision is not based on discriminatory grounds (i.e. because of gender, race, religion, age, a disability, sexual orientation, etc.) or because you were trying to assert any of your statutory rights (e.g. requesting maternity/paternity leave, etc.). I see no discriminatory factors here so if the employer wants you to leave they can easily make that happen.
If the dismissal or resignation had nothing to do with any of the above exceptions then you would not be able to challenge it and your only protection would be if you were not paid your contractual notice period, because unless you were dismissed for gross misconduct, you would be entitled to receive your contractual notice period. If you did not have a written contract in place you would be entitled to the minimum statutory notice period of 1 week. Your employer would either have to allow you to work that notice period and pay you as normal, or they will have to pay you in lieu of notice.
If you were not paid your notice period when you were due one, that would amount to wrongful dismissal (which is different to unfair dismissal) and you could make a claim in an employment tribunal to recover the pay for the notice period that you should have been given. There is a 3-month time limit from the date of dismissal to submit the claim.
I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Many thanks, ***** ***** my position clearly

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
you are welcome, all the best

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