Furlough whistleblowing causes concern

A third of Covid-related calls to a whistleblowing advice line are reports of the misuse of the job retention scheme, including employees being placed on it without their knowledge. The revelation follows HMRC recently announcing that nearly 800 people had reported their employers to the body for fraudulently claiming money from the scheme.

Complaints include people being told to work despite being furloughed and people who didn’t know they’d been furloughed until they got 80% of pay for doing their usual work.

More than a quarter) of calls to Protect, a whistleblowing charity, in relation to fraudulent use of the furlough scheme came from workers in the hospitality sector, while nearly a fifth were from retail staff.7

Other cases included an instance where all staff at a small company had been furloughed but were asked to carry on working at the firm as volunteers. Employees who raised concerns about this practice with their managers were told the company was acting fairly and had taken legal advice.

HMRC has the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of any claim under the job retention scheme. If it comes to light that an employer has claimed wages in respect of a furloughed employee who was still carrying out work while furloughed, the employer will be held to be in breach of the scheme and liable to repay any monies paid either during that period or under the job retention scheme.

HMRC’s existing penalty regime allows it to levy penalties of up to 30%  of sums due to HMRC for ‘careless’ errors, and up to 100 per cent for ‘deliberate’ errors.

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