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Communicating only in English can expose you to risk

Anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) laws like the UK’s Bribery Act 2010 and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) are stringent, wide reaching and tend to carry harsh penalties for those who breach them. It is little surprise that many senior executives, especially those with a business presence in countries that have a high level of perceived corruption, believe that corruption poses one of the highest risks to their business in the years ahead.

You can mitigate the legal, financial and reputational risks associated with corruption by putting in place adequate procedures and taking reasonable care to ensure these are understood by your entire workforce. English is considered the global language of business and it is understandable that this will be the language of choice for organisations located within the English speaking world or have this as the language of choice. In this situation, designating English as the ‘official company language’ may on the face of it appear to be a solution, but can in fact pose a risk to the organisation.

What policies must be translated?

Some counties including France, Mongolia and Turkey have introduced prohibitions that punish employers for supplying written communication to staff other than in the local language. In less rigid settings, it is for an organisation to determine what must and should be translated based on an assessment of the local laws, necessity and proportionality. This form of assessment gives an idea of the information and documents that need to be communicated to those who do not have a good grasp of English and the most appropriate language to be used. Given the vital importance of ethical practices, it is considered prudent to supply your ABC policy and procedures in a language others can understand.

It is reasonable to expect that members of staff, agents and third parties who do not have a good grasp of English, should be supplied with either a translation of the ABC procedure that is in their mother tongue and crystal clear, or have it explained to them by a linguist who is highly proficient in both languages. The same principle can be applied to other procedures that need to be understood but are written in a language that key people cannot understand. There are opportunities to enhance employee relations and mitigate risk of harassment by translating HR policies on acceptable behaviour. This is viewed as good practice by Today Advisory.

Recipients should sign to acknowledge that they have seen and read the documents, with a record of this kept on file along with details of ABC initial training and refresher training received.

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