Employment barrister's stark warning for people being asked to work while on furlough

18 June 2020, 14:22 | Updated: 18 June 2020, 14:49

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With changes being made to the Government's furlough scheme one employment expert has warned that the consequences for defrauding the system will be stark.

"A lot of people are finding they're being asked to go back to work part-time," Daniel Barnett, an Employment Barrister at Outer Temple Chambers told LBC

The expert said part-time working while on coronavirus furlough was not illegal from July 1, under the Government's flexible furlough scheme, but he warned that returning to work before that date, while still on furlough, is "completely unlawful".

The barrister even said employers could be prosecuted for defrauding HMRC.

But, he said he had discovered it was an "increasingly common problem."

"HMRC have said they're going to be investigating, over the next five years, all furlough claims," he told LBC.

The barrister warned that people would not be able to get around the strict rules.

He was even able to tell Nick Ferrari examples of people who were getting their staff to use personal email addresses for work "so the revenue will never find out."

"That's just fraud, plain and simple," he said.

HMRC will investigate all furlough payments, Nick Ferrari was told
HMRC will investigate all furlough payments, Nick Ferrari was told. Picture: LBC/PA

Nick asked what should employees do if they were approached by their bosses to work while they are meant to be on furlough and Daniel said there were two things an employee can do.

"First of all, they can just refuse," he said, adding if they were sacked as a result they would have a "pretty rocksolid" claim for unfair dismissal.

"The other thing they can do is report their employer to a confidential helpline that HMRC runs."

He said his advice to employers was "very very simple, don't do it."

"The rules are there to be obeyed."

The legal expert warned the results of defrauding the system could be stark for businesses "there's a very real possibility the directors could be prosecuted."

Watch the whole informed exchange in the video at the top of the page.