Sheffield furlough row recruitment firm Brewster Partners withholds evidence 'proving' its innocence

A Sheffield recruitment firm at the centre of a furlough row has refused to share evidence from investigators that prove it did no wrong.

Thursday, 28th April 2022, 12:14 pm

Brewster Partners hired law firm Knights after reports bosses had encouraged staff on furlough to work.

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

In another video, chief executive Nigel Brewster tells employees not to worry because he has ‘a cunning plan’.

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Nigel Brewster.

WHY IS THE FIRM WITHOLDING EVIDENCE OF ITS INNOCENCE?

Mr Brewster said Knights found no evidence of misuse of the scheme. But he would not share the findings stating they were ‘legally privileged’.

He added: “The Knights report stated the company’s receipt of CJRS funds appeared to be within the rules of the scheme despite comments in zoom calls by managers.

“However, in order to finally and fully draw a line under this matter, the business actively sought a dialogue with HMRC and as previously stated those conversations are ongoing.

“Unfortunately due to an apparent increase in HMRC’s workload our conversations are taking longer than initially expected.”

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The story broke in November after an investigation by The Times newspaper and BBC File On 4.

The Times said HMRC figures showed the company received at least £70,000 in furlough between December 2020 and June 2021.

It is estimated that based on the number of people working at the time of the calls in early 2020, it could have claimed as much as £500,000.

WHO IS STILL INVESTIGATING THE FIRM?

Trade body the Recruitment and Employment Federation is still investigating five months on.

Brewster Partners is estimated to have gone from 40 staff in November to about 18 today. It is based on Carver Street in the city centre.

Lisa Brewster has gone back to her maiden name of Kirby and started at new job as ‘director of contact centre’ at Venatu Recruitment Group in Doncaster, according to her Linkedin profile.

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.

An HMRC spokesman said: “Anyone who believes an employer has abused the CJRS should search ‘Report Fraud HMRC’ on GOV.UK.”

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