Almost 800 people have reported their employers to HM Revenue and Customs alleging they are fraudulently claiming money from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
HMRC confirmed it has received 795 reports of potential fraud related to the furlough scheme, which was yesterday extended until the end of October. It will now assess these cases in line with its usual fraud procedures. A spokesperson said the department could not break down the numbers any further at this time.
Under the rules of the furlough scheme, workers must not complete any work for their employer in order for their role to be eligible for the grant, which covers 80% of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
However, whistleblowing organisations have heard numerous reports from individuals that their employers are asking them to continue to work, despite receiving furlough support.
Liz Gardiner, CEO of Protect, a whistleblowing support body, told Sky News today that the organisation had received a high number of calls to its advice line on furlough fraud.
“We expect this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “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 and I’m going to report you’.”
Another group, WhistleblowersUK, said up to a fifth of calls had been from employees in the care sector. Its CEO Georgina Halford-Hall told Sky News: “I’m sure employers are in a very difficult situation not knowing when an invoice might be paid.
“But to put their employees, who are really dedicated to those people they have got to know in the community, in a position where they’re having to choose between committing a criminal act, or not having a job, or not look after the old people they’re caring for, it really is a disgrace, a national disgrace.”
A spokesperson for HMRC said it “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 urges anyone who believes their employer is fraudulently claiming CJRS support to use its digital reporting service. Any information will be treated confidentially and statistical reporting is anonymous.
Announcing the extension to the furlough scheme yesterday, which will also mean staff can return to work part-time from August, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that at least 7.5 million jobs in the UK had been placed on furlough, supporting around 1 million businesses.