Charities that establish and follow "adequate procedures" to prevent bribery will have a full defence against charges under the Bribery Act, according to guidance published last week.
The guidance gives six principles that should be followed in the procedures: proportionality to the organisation, top-level commitment to preventing bribery, effective risk assessment, due diligence, effective staff communication, and monitoring and review.
The Act, which comes into effect in July, creates four new offences, one of which relates to organisations that fail to take sufficient steps to prevent bribery involving their employees or agents. Charities have previously voiced concerns that trustees and senior managers in the UK could be prosecuted under the act, particularly if bribes were paid by employees working abroad.
Nicola Evans, a senior associate at the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said the new principles stressed "proportionality, common sense and good governance", and made it very clear that if charities demonstrated this they were unlikely to be prosecuted.
"While it's impossible for guidance to completely answer people's worries, I think the sector should be reassured," she said.
Charities had also been concerned that payments made under duress would result in prosecution, said Tim Boyes-Watson, director of Mango, a charity that provides financial management support to international organisations.
"The guidance says if you make a payment under duress, that's extortion, not bribery," he said.
He said his own organisation, with several other charities, had produced guidance on a bribery policy for international organisations, and this looked very similar to the Ministry of Justice recommendations.