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Charity worker raises furlough fraud concerns

Thomas has worked for a charity providing services for young people for six years. He called with concerns that the charity had committed furlough fraud- he was asked to agree to backdate documentation stating that he had been on furlough during a period when, in fact, he had been working. Thomas raised this issue with his manager who dismissed his concerns, refusing to engage over email but saying face-to-face that the charity were unlikely to be found out.   

Thomas was seeking advice on how best to escalate his concerns. He had drafted a whistleblowing letter to send to senior management but was worried that they might receive it badly and he might be subjected to negative treatment for speaking up.  

We advised Thomas that he could raise concerns regarding furlough fraud externally to the HMRC, without going to his employer first, if he felt that there was no one he could trust at work, he had raised concerns before and they had been ignored and/or where his employer was active in the wrongdoing he was seeking to flag. Thomas confirmed that there was no whistleblowing policy contact and no one he trusted at the charity. 

We recommended talking to HMRC, on a confidential rather than an anonymous basis, as this way there would be a record of him raising concerns but his identity would be protected. It would also allow HMRC to get back in contact with him, should they need help with their investigation. We suggested that Thomas could tell HMRC that he feared push back from his employer and they should be able to conduct any investigation sensitively- as a ‘spot check’, for example- in order to better protect his identity.  

Thomas was really reassured by the advice. He felt that going to HMRC would be a much better solution than his original plan and he was very grateful. If Thomas suffered any sort of negative treatment as a result of raising concerns, we suggested he get back in touch for further advice.