Hundreds of workers report employers for 'furlough fraud'

13 May 2020, 11:57

File photo: HMRC confirmed it has received 795 reports of potential fraud related to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
File photo: HMRC confirmed it has received 795 reports of potential fraud related to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Almost 800 reports have been made to the taxman over claims employers are fraudulently taking furlough money from the Government.

HMRC confirmed it has received 795 reports of potential fraud related to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

It said it will now be "assessing" these cases in line with its usual procedures.

The scheme was introduced from March, with the Government pledging to pay 80 per cent of the wages of workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, in a bid to protect jobs.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined plans to extend the furlough scheme until the end of October.

One stipulation of the scheme is that workers must not complete any work at all for their organisations to be eligible for the pay-out.

Bosses at whistleblower support organisations said many workers are scared to report employers who are asking them to continue to work despite claiming furlough support.

Liz Gardiner, chief executive of Protect, said: "We expect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"In this time of unprecedented change, when people are really worried about their jobs, it's a really difficult thing to stand up and say 'I think you're committing fraud, employer, and I'm going to report you'."

Latest figures show that 7.5 million jobs have been furloughed since the scheme was launched, with 935,000 employers choosing to furlough staff.

A spokesman said: "HMRC is committed to ensuring the tax systems we operate are used fairly and efficiently and, where necessary, will take action to ensure compliance with the relevant rules, regulations and legislation that govern the UK taxation systems.

"We value all the information provided to us by members of the public aimed at helping us achieve that goal.

"HMRC treats its duty of care to those who report fraud to us as a priority and we have a number of mechanisms set in place to ensure the safety of those individuals."

The Chancellor said on Tuesday that the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of October, with workers continuing to receive 80 per cent of their wages until August.

The Chancellor told MPs that changes will be made from the end of July to share the burden of paying salaries with employers, but the scheme will continue until the end of October.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sunak said: "As we reopen the economy we need to support people getting back to work.

"The job retention scheme has been extended for four months until the end of October. By that point, we will have provided eight months of support for British people and businesses.

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He continued: "Until the end of July there will be no changes.

"Then from August to October, the scheme will continue for all sectors and regions of the UK but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.

"Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back to work part-time and start sharing the cost with the government of paying people's salaries."

The scheme has so far supported around a million businesses and has cost the treasury around £8 billion so far.

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