Why You Need an Employee Gift Policy

Here's Gift Acceptance Guidance for Your Employees

Employee gift policies supply guidance about what employees can accept.
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A gift policy provides guidance to company employees about what is and isn’t appropriate to accept as a present, offering, advertisement, award, or token of appreciation from a customer, vendor, supplier, potential employee, or potential vendor or supplier.

The gift policy states whether employees are allowed to accept gifts both within and outside of the work premises. If a gift is allowed, the gift policy defines the acceptable value and type of gift permissible to employees.

The gift policy defines who may give a gift to company employees.

Finally, the gift policy defines under what circumstances an employee may accept a gift. The gift policy defines any exemptions to the policy: exceptional situations or circumstances in which employees may accept gifts that are otherwise not allowed.

Usually, exceptions to the stated expectations in the gift policy require the president’s signature (or that of another senior level employee).

Code of Conduct Requires an Employee Gift Policy

No matter how well-meaning or well-intentioned a gift, the potential exists for impropriety or the appearance of impropriety to be present because of the existence and acceptance of the gift. A gift policy ensures that employees adhere to the company code of conduct.

Codes of conduct generally state that all employees demonstrate a commitment to treating all people and organizations, with whom they come into contact or conduct business, impartially.

A gift policy requires employees to demonstrate the highest standards of ethics and conduct in relationship to potential vendors, suppliers, and customers.

It ensures that employees practice equal treatment, unbiased professionalism, and non-discriminatory actions in relation to all vendors, suppliers, customers, employees, potential employees, potential vendors or suppliers, and any individual or organization with whom they come into contact.

In Support of Gift Policies

In earlier business days, when I worked at a large manufacturer, the gifts accepted by the purchasing agents and others were the stuff of legend among the other employees - and yes, the vendors were buying access to sales and preferential treatment.

In return for their purchases of the vendors' products, the vendors spent elaborate sums of money to wine, dine, send the purchasing agents on trips, and generally, provide lavish gifts for them and for some of the manufacturing company executives.

I have no idea what kinds of gift policies were on the books at the time, but if policies existed, they were not followed. Getting into purchasing became a standing joke among people who wanted to make more money.

My second example illustrates a company that had in place a comprehensive gift policy. The policy was written, every employee was trained, and the culture rewarded appropriate conduct and adherence to the policy.

Vendors and suppliers were informed of the no gifts gift policy. Some chose to ignore it, especially during the holiday season, but most complied. When the policy was ignored and a gift arrived for an employee, the standard practice was to raffle it off to all employees if it could not be shared.

The proceeds from the raffle went to charity so employees felt good about participating if they so desired. (They only participated if they wanted an item such as the annual Omaha box of steaks and other goodies that arrived each year.)

Food gifts, baskets, and other gifts that employees could share, were centrally located - and all employees shared. This is fair and equitable treatment of employees. It truly is not fair in a workplace for some employees to benefit more than the rest of the employees because of their position or proximity to vendors.

The difference between the employee behaviors in the two companies is why I recommend the adoption and sharing of a company gift policy.

See a Sample Gift Policy.