A gift from a business contact? Things to bear in mind
Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker said at the presentation of the Code of Conduct on Integrity at the start of November: 'Most people have a good sense of what is right and wrong.' For the sake of clarity, Leiden University has set out guidelines on proper conduct, for example when receiving gifts.'
The period leading up to Christmas is the time for business gifts - and businesses can be very generous. In what circumstances may a university employee accept a gift?
The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities states: Members of staff, in their position as employees, are forbidden to accept or solicit gifts from third parties. Members of staff, in their position as employees, are forbidden to accept remuneration, rewards or gifts, unless the employer gives permission.
The guidelines set up by Leiden University do not go so far as to say that you always have to refuse a 'personal benefit', such as a gift. 'Personal benefit' also covers such things as tickets to the theatre or a sports event. What is important is that the independence of your position is not prejudiced. Obviously, this applies particularly if you are involved in awarding contracts to companies or fellow institutions.
It goes without saying that you must never ask a business contact or supplier (or potential business contact or supplier) for a gift or service, let alone demand such a gift or service. Nor may you accept anything if contract negotiations are ongoing, if the contractor is a supplier of services or goods nor in situations where a contractor needs something from you, such as an order or assignment.
If the situations outlined above do not apply, you may accept an incidental gift valued at below 50 euros. You do need to notify your supervisor of this, particularly in cases where politeness requires an exchange of gifts or if you have recently given a presentation, for example. If you are in any doubt, you should ask your supervisor about how to respond.
Networks can play an important function in your work. How should you handle invitations for networking events and meetings of business contacts of the university? What is important is that you maintain your impartiality. In addition, you may only accept invitations to events that are functional, restrained and purposeful. Reciprocity also plays a role. If your department regularly invites these business contacts to similar events, the question of impartiality is less problematic. The motto here too is: if in doubt, discuss it with your supervisor.
NB. Different rules may apply within your particular department or unit.
Question and answer session with Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker and the chair of the employees delegation of the Local Consultative Meeting, Nicole den Os, on 1 November, when the Code of Conduct on Integrity came into force (in Dutch)