Written by: Keith Tully
As many as a third of people furloughed by their employers have been asked to carry out at least some aspects of their usual jobs while on furlough.
That’s according to the results of a recent survey carried out by Crossland Employment Solicitors, whose findings suggest that a significant number of employers are not adhering to the terms of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The idea behind the job retention scheme is that companies that suddenly couldn’t operate as normal because of coronavirus had a means of paying their staff not to work and to stay home instead.
But a key stipulation of the scheme is that companies do not use money they get from government sources to pay the wages of people who are actually still working for them.
Some changes to the government’s system are expected to be introduced in the coming months, with formerly furloughed staff likely to be allowed to go back to work for their employers on a part-time basis.
However, for now, companies that have their furloughed employees working for them are considered to be committing fraud.
According to the latest figures, a third of furloughed employees have been asked to do their old jobs, while roughly one in five have been asked to take on somebody else’s job or to work for a company associated with their current employer.
Concerns that the emergency job retention scheme might be getting abused have meant the government is considering the possibility of giving employers a 30-day amnesty period during which they can confess to their wrongful activities or face being fined thereafter.
It could also be that rules will be brought in to mean that directors of insolvent companies can be pursued personally by the relevant authorities in relation to cases of furlough fraud.
“Like any fraud, this is a serious offence and an exploitation of employees,” said Beverley Sunderland, managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors.
“As it is fraud on the Treasury then an employer could be imposed with a hefty fine, asked to pay past payments back, have any future payments withheld or even potentially face prison,” she added.
A spokesperson for HMRC said: “This is taxpayer’s money and fraudulent claims limit our ability to support people and deprive public services of essential funding.
“Claims are checked and payments may be withheld or need to be repaid if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information.”
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