Conflicts of interest, gifts and hospitality
Registration of interests
An employee must register any interest they, their spouse or partner have which may conflict with ours. This includes any employment, substantial shareholding or membership of any external company or voluntary organisation which:
- has or may enter into a contract with us
- is involved in campaigning or lobbying about our activities
To register an interest, use the officer interests registration form.
The manager will pass that information to the democratic services manager who will enter it in a register of interests held for that purpose.
Suppose an employee lets contracts, or are involved in any way in engaging or supervising contractors. In that case, they must inform their manager immediately if either they or a relative or friend has any personal interest in respect of the contractor or potential contractor. That interest may be through:
- substantial shareholding
- membership of the contracting company or body
The manager will take steps to address any potential problems arising from the conflict of interests. For example, another employee may carry out the tendering process or deal with the contractor or potential contractor.
A 'significant interest' in a company is one where the employee, a relative or members of the same household in total have more than a 20% shareholding in a company. However, it may be that a shareholding below 20% is 'significant' for example, where the individual has veto rights or exercises control/influence over the company in other ways. If in doubt, the employee must seek further clarification from their manager.
A 'relative' means a spouse, partner, civil partner, parent, parent-in-law, son, daughter, step-son, step-daughter, child of a partner, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin, or the spouse or partner of any of the preceding persons. Partner means a member of a couple who live together.
A 'friend' is someone well known to another and regarded with liking, affection and loyalty by that person. A closer relationship is implied here rather than mere acquaintance.
The requirement to enter an interest on to a register relates only to the employee's interests, or those of their spouse or partner. The need to declare an interest during the course of employment is much broader. It relates both to the employee's interests and those of their friends or relatives. An employee can only make a declaration of interest they know about. The requirement does not imply any obligation to make enquiries of friends and relatives as to the interests they hold.
An employee is required to declare an interest if it comes to their attention that they have a connection or potential connection with any business or organisation (including voluntary bodies) which deal with us.
The same principles apply to work carried out through partnerships. Care is needed to ensure that employees identify, declare and address potential conflicts of interest appropriately.
If in doubt, the employee must register and declare an interest.
Gifts and hospitality
Employees should refuse personal gifts and hospitality offered to them or members of their family subject to the following:
- gifts and hospitality of 'token value' may be acceptable. For example, a pen, small gift, diary or a modest lunch, provided it is not a regular practice
- where the acceptance of refreshments or a meal would be appropriate in the conduct of regular business
Employees must treat with extreme caution any offer of a gift, favour or hospitality that is made to them personally. The person or organisation making the offer may be doing or seeking to do business with us or maybe applying to us for planning permission or some other kind of decision.
Employees must not compromise their position as a public service worker by accepting gifts or hospitality. Employees might be, or might be thought by others, to have been influenced in making an important decision as a consequence.
When deciding whether or not to accept an offer of a gift, the context is vital. It is unlikely that an offer from a company seeking to do business with us made to anyone involved in letting a contract will be acceptable. This is regardless of the value of the gift. Employees must never accept monetary gifts of any kind, whether in the form of cash, or cheques, vouchers or coupons.
Examples of hospitality which can be accepted are:
- refreshments or a meal given during or after business
- invitation to a society or institute dinner
Examples of hospitality which are not acceptable are:
- a holiday or business trip paid for by business contacts
- use of a company flat or hotel suite
Employees should decline offers from companies of promotional sales. Employees must inform their manager who will then decide whether to notify the Section 151 officer. They can write to the company concerned, indicating that improved discounts are the only form of promotion acceptable to us.
Employees must not use their own, relatives' or friends' loyalty cards when making purchases on behalf of us or service users.
Sometimes we sponsor or give grants for sporting and cultural events such as exhibitions and plays. Employees, their partner, spouse or relative shall not receive any benefit from such sponsorship or grant in a direct way without fully disclosing to their manager.
Where we give support in the community, employees must ensure that they provide impartial advice. For example, through sponsorship, grant aid, financial or other means. There must be no conflict of interest.
Registration of gifts and hospitality
Employees must record all offers of gifts or hospitality, whether or not they are accepted.
There is no requirement to record receipt of promotional material of token value.
Sometimes the reasons for acceptance of a gift or hospitality cannot be expressed in a simple form of words. The reasons should be recorded separately and cross-referenced to the register.
- Employees must always record the reason for accepting any gift worth over £50. A manager may agree to accept the gift on the basis that a group of employees shares it. Where appropriate, it can be used as a raffle prize or for a fund-raising event to benefit service users. A series of gifts which altogether total more than £50 in value must be registered.
- Employees must take care if purchasing goods or services on behalf of us. If there is an offer of a gift or hospitality, they must record it using the officer interests registration form. This applies whether or not it is to be accepted. Where it is to be accepted, approval should be obtained, from their manager.
- Employees must refuse to accept the legacy or bequest from service users' Will regardless of its value if it is as a consequence of their employment. Employees must also report the legacy or bequest to their manager.
- Any prizes won whilst on our business or while using our funds must be reported immediately to the manager. They will decide on the acceptability of such a prize.
- Where an external organisation wishes to sponsor a county council activity, the rules concerning the acceptance of gifts or hospitality apply. This can be by invitation, tender negotiation or voluntarily.
- Employees should treat all offers of free hotel accommodation or tickets for concerts or sporting events with caution. These are usually of a value more than £50, and you must seek approval to accept such hospitality.
If there is any doubt, employees must decline any offer of hospitality. Also, employees must enter any prizes won by them at a hospitality event in the register as a separate item.
If an employee is concerned about a particular gift or offer of hospitality, they must obtain advice from their manager.