This week, HMRC has announced that authorities will be launching a “small number” of criminal investigations into alleged serious fraud relating to the government’s furlough scheme.

Since its introduction in March 2020, more than £60bn has been claimed by employers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, to protect in excess of 11 million employees. HMRC believes that at least £1bn of this has been fraudulently or mistakenly claimed and will spend the next few years recovering these payments.

Back in September, HMRC chief Jim Harra said the amount of mistaken or fraudulent claims could add up to as much as £3.5bn and with the scheme currently set to run until the end of September 2021, this number could rise still.

In his budget in March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the government will create a taskforce to crack down on fraud of government coronavirus support packages. As the costs of the coronavirus pandemic continue to mount, it is clear that the government is planning to do everything it can to reclaim any funds and minimise the financial damage.

Last month, a man and woman in Yorkshire were arrested on suspicion of fraudulent claims amounting to £3.4m. The first arrests for suspected furlough fraud are believed to have taken place as early as July 2020.

Claims may be considered fraudulent when:

  • A claim was made for an employee who didn’t exist or no longer works for them

  • A claim was made for an employee who wasn’t put on furlough/was required to work while it was claimed they were on furlough

  • A claim was made for an employee who worked more hours on flexible furlough than claimed

If you have received a notification of a criminal investigation against you or your business relating to furlough fraud and would like some legal advice on your situation, our fraud and business crime experts can help. Whatever stage of the investigation you are at, get in touch with our team who can discuss the matter and the next steps in confidence. Call 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email: or