Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ‘whistle-blower’ service to be introduced

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is designed to support employers whose operations have been affected by COVID-19, by allowing employers to place employees on ‘furlough’ (a leave of absence) and claim 80% of their monthly wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, back from the government.

On 8th April, at a House of Commons Treasury Committee Hearing, Jim Harra (HMRC’s First Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive) announced that HMRC will be introducing an online ‘whistle-blower’ service for workers to use to report employers who abuse the CJRS.

The CJRS makes clear that workers who are placed on furlough may not do any work for that employer. However, there have been concerns that a number of employers are asking their staff to carry on working, even though they have been placed on furlough.

There have also been reports of some employers who intend to claim the grant but have no intention of paying it on to their employees.

Concerns have also been expressed that employers are inserting ‘claw back’ provisions in employee furlough agreements to try and protect the employer if the employer is unsuccessful in claiming support through the CJRS, or should HMRC ask for the grant to be repaid.

Mr Harra made clear that if employers are seeking to defraud HMRC by abusing the CJRS, they could be subject to prosecution.

It is hoped that the existence of the whistle-blower service will act as a deterrent to employers seeking to take unfair advantage of the CJRS. Further details are expected from HMRC as to how the whistle-blower service will function and when it will be available.

For advice relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, please contact a member of the Employment Team.

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