Breaking The Furlough Fraud Story

Crossland Employment Solicitors: HeadOn PR Breaks the Story on ‘Furlough Fraud’

The Campaign

Uncovering hugely consequential, topical data, HeadOn PR brought Crossland Employment Solicitors to the forefront of the national and regional media with a report that had a widespread public impact and reinforced the law firm’s position as leading authorities on employment matters.

Our Client
Crossland Employment Solicitors is a leading law firm, specialising in employment law, and recognised by Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 as experts in their field. Their clients range from small to medium-sized businesses, as well as FTSE 100 clients across almost every sector, including charities and schools.

The Objectives
As retained clients of HeadOn PR, a leading Cheltenham PR firm, we aim to keep Crossland Employment Solicitors at the forefront of current, industry-relevant issues, establishing them as thought leaders in their field. With their primary target audiences being in the accounting, business, HR and law sectors, we look to build their brand awareness across these fields, on both a national and regional level.

Our Methods
During the challenging period of the COVID-19 lockdown, concerns were brought to Crossland Employment Solicitor’s attention regarding individuals being asked to work while on furlough – the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where the UK government paid 80% of employees’ wages to avoid redundancies of those whose services were not currently required. After receiving anecdotal evidence of this activity, it was clear that there was an impactful story to uncover. HeadOn PR advised on a media strategy and commissioned an independent research study of 2,000 furloughed employees from individual organisations across the following sectors:

·       Manufacturing & Construction
·       IT & Tech
·       Accounting & Finance
·      Marketing, PR & Advertising

As a hot topic, the study and subsequent PR needed a quick turnaround to get ahead of competitors, who were likely to be aware of the same issues. With a short, snappy poll, we uncovered the data needed and used our media contacts to launch the story, secure coverage and manage interviews.

The data unearthed for Crossland Employment Solicitors showed a staggering 34% of UK bosses were trying to cash in by asking employees to work when furloughed.

A third of individuals were asked to carry on with their usual job. Meanwhile, 29% were told to undertake more administrative tasks, and one in five asked to either cover someone else’s responsibilities or to work for a company linked to their employer while on furlough.

Shockingly, the data revealed investment companies trying to use the scheme as an alternative to performance management – if an employee wasn’t hitting a target, they were furloughed or threatened with furlough. In professional services, those employees on a work permit were threatened with dismissal or being asked to leave the country if they did not continue to work.

Employers undertaking these actions could potentially face hefty fines or even a prison sentence.

Across the coverage, Beverley Sunderland, Managing Director of Crossland Employment Solicitors, provided insight into the data revealed, as well as advice on what the rules were and the potential penalties faced if they were ignored.

The Results

When the research-led campaign was launched, on the 18th June 2020, approximately 9.1 million jobs, from 1.1 million different employers were furloughed in the UK. This support was costing the government £20.8 billion, with that figure expected to rise to £80 billion by the time the program stops in October 2020. Crossland Employment Solicitors’ report, therefore, generated tremendous interest in the media.

Across the national and local media, we secured over 440 pieces of coverage with the majority of them on the first day the news broke, including 10 broadcast mentions.

The ‘Furlough Fraud’ release was the second most-read story on BBC business online and Beverley Sunderland was interviewed on the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show and TalkRadio.

Other significant national media attention came from coverage on Sky News and in the Evening Standard, Daily Mail,  Daily Express, the Mirror, LBC, Heart FM, Mix96 and Yahoo.

The story appeared across most regional papers online, and media interest local to Crossland Employment Solicitors included an interview with BBC Oxford Radio with JackFm running the news throughout its morning news bulletins.

Key to the campaign was also ensuring there was industry-specific coverage. With such a strong story, our campaign was able to hit every one of Crossland Employment Solicitors’ target audiences. In AccountingWEB, the leading online publication in accountancy, the story headlined. Reports were also published in the industry-leading magazines, Business Matters, HRreview and Personnel today.

Across social media, our launch led to ‘Furlough Fraud’ trending, with tweets from high-profile barristers, and law firms and company directors engaging in the conversation.

As the government announced a 30-day warning period for those committing furlough fraud, interest in Crossland Employment Solicitors’ research continues, and Beverley’s opinion is sought from numerous other industry-leading platforms, including leading HR and recruitment experts, Business Forums International Ltd.

With national, regional and industry-specific interest, our research-led campaign has brought ‘Furlough Fraud’ keenly into public awareness and succeeded in demonstrating that Crossland Employment Solicitors are leading at the forefront of cutting-edge employment issues.

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