Over 30% of furloughed employees illegally asked to work

In a study conducted by an Abingdon based law firm, results show that just over a third of employers have been engaged in furlough fraud.

Crossland Employment Solicitors commissioned a poll which asked 2,000 furloughed full-time staff (employed across a variety of sectors and by different companies) about their experiences of furlough.

The study found that 34% of employees had been asked to work whilst being furloughed by their company.

Beverley Sunderland, Managing Director at Crossland Solicitors, comments:

“Until 1 July employers are only allowed to ask furloughed employees to undertake training, yet a third of the employees surveyed  were asked to work.”

Some further results of that survey include:

  • A third were asked to carry on doing their usual job, while 29% were told to undertake more administrative tasks.
  • One in five have been asked to either cover someone else’s job or to work for a company linked to their employer while on furlough.
  • The rule breaking was evenly spread across SMEs and larger corporates.

Being asked to work when on furlough is illegal and, as the firm explains, is considered an act of fraud under the current rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Like any fraud, this is considered a serious offence and an exploitation of employees. In addition, as it is fraud on the Treasury, employers could face hefty fines, be asked to pay past payments back, have any future payments withheld or even potentially face prison time.

In addition to the worrying percentage of workers who were asked to work, Beverly’s firm also found some worrying results about the type of employees who have been asked to work.

“Some employers seem to be targeting those they feel are less likely to complain, such as those on work visas; with a larger proportion of women enquiring saying that although they had been asked to work whilst their also furloughed male colleague wasn’t.”

If you believe you have been the victim of an employer breaking the rules, employees are encouraged to speak up to their employer in the first instance, writing a formal letter stating that they believe the request to work is against the rules.  If the matter is not resolved, employees are able to  report their employees to the HMRC anonymously.

Image by Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash

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