Hundreds of companies throughout the UK are suspected of fraudulently claiming furlough money from the government while pressuring their employees to continue working. The furlough scheme is designed to help businesses retain their staff during the coronavirus crisis, with the government paying 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month. However, furloughed employees are not meant to do any work at all for their organisations. Employers who ask staff to work while money is being claimed amounts to committing fraud and it is taxpayers who will ultimately foot the multi-million pound bill.
HMRC has said it has received 795 reports from worried workers about the Job Retention Scheme. The majority work for small organisations with fewer than 50 employees, many being financially vulnerable on small salaries.
Workers have reported feeling pressured, threatened and facing an impossible choice between doing what is right or potentially losing their jobs.
Workers experiencing this are being encouraged to report their employers to HMRC although many are scared. Some workers may not even know they have been put on furlough. HMRC has said any employee reporting furlough fraud would be “entirely anonymous”.
Seven-and-a-half million workers are being supported by the furlough scheme which has now been extended until the end of October. However a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank suggests government support is protecting landlords, banks and lenders more than families.