Probe continues into Sheffield furlough row recruitment firm Brewster Partners

A probe into whether furloughed staff at a Sheffield firm were encouraged to work is continuing, investigators have confirmed.

Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 3:45 pm

Recruitment company Brewster Partners is still being investigated five months after the alleged practice came to light, according to Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Federation.

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He said: "The REC always investigates public allegations made against members through our compliance process, and we will be contacting the company for more information.

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Lisa Brewster, who was managing partner of Brewster Partners, departed after she was filmed advising staff on a Zoom call during the pandemic, a source told The Star.

"All REC members agree to abide by our Code of Professional Practice. Any member found to be in breach will be dealt with under our complaints and disciplinary procedure."

Managing partner Lisa Brewster resigned after being filmed advising staff on a Zoom call during the pandemic.

At one point in the leaked video, she says: “So, technically, yes, you're furloughed. You can choose to work, though, which I'm presuming nearly everybody here will be doing…”

She is the ex-wife of chief executive Nigel Brewster, who remains at the company, which is based on Carver Street in the city centre.

Since the incident, Brewster Partners has moved from Tenter Street to a new office on Carver Street.

Furlough protected jobs during the pandemic by paying 80 per cent of wages - up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Key to the scheme was that people must not work while furloughed.

Brewster is estimated to have had 40 staff in November – and about 18 today.

HMRC says it takes ‘tough action’ on fraudulent and criminal behaviour around Covid support schemes.

Nigel Brewster volunteered on the Local Enterprise Partnership for 10 years.

A spokesman said: “We have blocked tens of millions of pounds of claims being paid out in the first place and we are using the full range of our powers to recover incorrectly paid claims.

“We currently have a number of criminal investigations ongoing, we have opened 27,000 civil inquiries, and have already made 10 arrests for suspected help scheme fraud.

“Anyone who believes an employer has abused the CJRS should search ‘Report Fraud HMRC’ on GOV.UK and complete our online form."

Last month, Brewster Partners said it had requested a dialogue with HMRC and communications were ongoing.

In a new statement, bosses said the Recruitment and Employment Federation had told them the matter was not being investigated. Meanwhile, they said they were ‘completely satisfied’ they had done everything in their power to successfully address the issue ‘at every level’.

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