More and more companies are fraudulently claiming their employees are on furlough

More than a third of calls to a whistleblowing charity has been to report companies fraudulently claiming their employees are on furlough in order to receive 80 per cent of their wages.

Protect has stated that 36 per cent of their COVID-19 related calls have been regarding “furlough fraud”. The charity also said the number of these types of calls has been increasing every week.

Another charity, WhistleblowerUK has said that certain employees have been threatened with being fired if they were not to continue working after being furloughed.

The HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) hotline where you could report fraud relating to the furlough scheme had received 795 written or online complaints. The hotline is now closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Liz Gardiner, chief executive of Protect, said:

People have simply been told to work despite being furloughed and they obviously feel uncomfortable about this as it’s wrong – it is deceiving taxpayers out of money.

We’ve also heard from people who didn’t know they’d been furloughed until they got 80 per cent of pay for doing their usual work.

Ms Gardiner believes HMRC should reopen its hotline as she believes this is a “new emerging problem that needs to be tackled.”

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of calls Protect received were in relation to “furlough fraud” from employees in the hospitality sector and 18 per cent from those in retail.

An HMRC spokesperson said:

We’d ask anyone concerned that their employer might be abusing the scheme to please contact us.

These reports are just one way that HMRC identifies fraud. Claims are checked and payments may be withheld or need to be repaid if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information. We won’t hesitate to take criminal action against the most serious cases.

Numerous employees have come forward with examples of how their company has attempted to commit fraud, with a manager working in the financial services saying she was to be fired if she showed any objections to a plan which involved furloughing staff who were working from home.