Why You Need an Employee Gift Policy and a Sample Gift Policy

Man giving a gift to a woman sitting at her desk.

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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 relation 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, 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.

It is unknown what kinds of gift policies were on the books at the time, but if policies existed, they were not followed. Getting into the purchasing department became a standing joke among people who wanted to make more money.

In a second example, a company that had in place a comprehensive gift policy is illustrated. 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 among the staff.

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

Food gifts, baskets, cookies, candy, and other gifts that employees could share were centrally located—and all employees had access and 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 the adoption and sharing of a company gift policy are strongly recommended.

Following is a company gift policy that you may use as a model when you craft your own company gift policy.

Why Your Company Has a Gift Policy (No-Gift Policy)

To avoid a conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict of interest, or the need for our employees to examine the ethics of acceptance, many companies, and therefore their employees, do not accept gifts from vendors, suppliers, customers, potential employees, potential vendors or suppliers, or any other individual or organization, under any circumstances.

Many companies' codes of conduct require that all employees demonstrate the organization’s commitment to treating all people and organizations, with whom we come into contact or conduct business, impartially. (Your company) employees demonstrate the highest standards of ethics and conduct.

Employees practice and demonstrate equal treatment, unbiased professionalism, and non-discriminatory actions in relation to all vendors, suppliers, customers, employees, potential employees, potential vendors or suppliers, and any other individual or organization.

Company Gift Policy (or No-Gift Policy) Standards and Requirements

As one effort to demonstrate our commitment to these standards and behavior, all employees must abide by the following no-gift policy requirements.

No gifts of any kind, that are offered by vendors, suppliers, customers, potential employees, potential vendors, and suppliers, or any other individual or organization, no matter the value, will be accepted by any employee, at any time, on or off the work premises. By “gift,” your company means any item including pens, hats, t-shirts, mugs, calendars, bags, key chains, portfolios, and other tchotchkes as well as items of greater value.

  • This no-gift policy includes vendor or potential vendor or supplier-provided food, beverages, meals, or entertainment such as sporting events.
  • This no-gift policy includes any business courtesy offered such as a product discount or any other benefit if the benefit is not extended to all employees.

Gift Policy Exceptions:

  • Exempted from this policy are gifts such as t-shirts, pens, trade show bags and all other tchotchkes that employees obtain, as members of the public, at events such as conferences, training events, seminars, and trade shows, that are offered equally to all members of the public attending the event.
  • This includes attendance at and food, beverages, and tchotchkes provided at events, exhibitor trade show floor locations, press events, and parties funded by conference or event sponsors.
  • Exempted are cards, thank you notes, certificates, or other written forms of thanks and recognition.
  • Exempted are food, beverages, and moderately priced meals or tickets to local events that are supplied by and also attended by current customers, partners, and vendors or suppliers in the interest of building positive business relationships.

This moderately priced entertainment is provided as part of a “working” meeting or session to benefit and advance positive working relationships and company interests. These activities are expected to be reciprocated by our company in turn.

Employees are required to professionally inform vendors, potential vendors and others of this no-gift policy, and the reasons the company has adopted the policy. Employees will request that vendors respect our company policy and not purchase and deliver any gift for our employees, a department, an office or the company, at any time, for any reason.

If an employee or department receives a gift:

  • If feasible, the gift is returned to the vendor.
  • If not feasible to return the gift, the gift must be raffled off to all employees. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to a charity that the philanthropy committee has identified for the calendar year. If employees are uninterested in the raffled item, the gift will be donated to a designated charity.
  • Plants or flowers will be displayed in the lobby, or at another central location where all employees may enjoy their presence.
  • Gifts of food that may arrive during the holidays, and at other times of the year when gift giving is traditional, belong to the entire staff even if addressed to a single employee. Under no circumstances may an employee take a food gift home; food gifts must be shared with and distributed to all staff, with email notification, during work hours, in central, worksite locations.

    This policy is supplemental to other company codes of conduct, ethics, standards, values, and policies in the employee handbook and in other company documents.

    If any employee has questions about and/or needs clarification of any aspect of this policy, the employee should check with their supervisor. If the supervisor is uncertain, Human Resources is the arbiter of the gift policy to ensure consistent employee treatment across the company. Any exceptions to the gift policy may be made only with the permission of the company president.

    This policy takes the place of any earlier policy and is effective: (date of policy). All employees must acknowledge that they have received and understand the company gift policy.