The whistleblower charity, Protect, is calling on HMRC to exempt workers who contact them about potential furlough fraud from having to pay any money back.
It is also seeking reassurance from the government agency not to prosecute the worker if it was their employer who forced them back to work, when they were officially furloughed.
The charity is concerned about the level of furlough fraud, having had a record of more than 250 calls to its advice line related to the matter, making it the single biggest issue that Protect has dealt with in its almost three-decade history. During the three-month lockdown, it has handled more than 1,100 calls in total.
Many of the calls on furlough fraud have been around the liability of whistleblowers. Protect is calling for whistleblowers to be given the same reassurance from the government as that given to directors - that genuine mistakes will not be prosecuted.
It is particularly concerned that powers being given to HMRC under the Finance Bill could be turned against whistleblowers. Protect says that they should only apply to those who sign off on any fraud.
As the charity points out, whistleblowers have no say, let alone any power, over the decision to be furloughed. In addition, they face the risk of being dismissed if they refuse to work while on the scheme.
The charity suggests that if a worker is concerned about potential fraud by their employer in relation to the furlough scheme, they should first consult the government guidance to ascertain if their employer is in breach. They should then consider raising the matter internally with a line manager or supervisor.
If raising the matter internally is either in the view of the worker unlikely to be effective or they fear repercussions if they do so, Protect recommends that they contact HMRC on their Fraud Reporting online form or contact Protect for advice.
Protect can be contacted on 020 3117 2520 or via an online form at: https://protect-advice.org.uk/contact-protect-advice-line/
Articles shared by Thompsons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) are correct at the time of publication. You should check the government's guidelines for the latest information and advice at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.