To date, under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme the Government has paid £35 billion to employers to cover furlough payments.
HMRC confirmed this week that it estimates that 5% to 10% of that amount has been paid incorrectly due to error or fraud. Given the scale of the scheme and the speed with which it had to be introduced, these vulnerabilities were probably inevitable.
As the chief executive of HMRC explained in his evidence to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, HMRC:
- Is not intending to try to find employers who have made legitimate mistakes;
- Expects employers to check their claims and repay any excess amount; and
- Will be focusing on abuse and fraud.
HMRC is currently investigating 27,000 high risk cases where they believe a serious error has been made. This follows 8,000 calls to HMRC’s fraud telephone hotline.
It is also important for employees and employers to understand that dismissing employees or subjecting them to any detriment because they have made an allegation of fraud would be in breach of whistleblower protections, for which compensation in the employment tribunal is unlimited.
Please contact our employment team for advice on these matters.