From Wednesday, companies that have used wage support (NOW) can report their final loss of turnover to the UWV, which calculates whether they have received too much (or too little) subsidy.
Sometimes they could laugh about it, the UWVs of the Enforcement department. While their colleagues hurriedly started the wage compensation scheme (NOW) this spring, they tried, together with accountants and ministry employees, to devise all possible ways to commit fraud on that scheme.
Could it be, they thought, for example, that employees of a company would request NOW with their private account number and then put the money in their own pocket? “And guess what: that happened,” says UWV director Janet Helder. “They immediately dropped out of the system because we calculated that risk in advance.”
However, most fraud cases will only come to light now that employers have to report their definitive loss of turnover to the UWV. The 8.3 billion euros paid out in the first three months of the crisis were advances based on expected revenue loss. Speed was more important than precision. It must now be calculated whether employers, intentionally or unintentionally, have received too much or too little subsidy. Anyone who does not state any turnover must repay the entire amount. Helder is leading the process which will take months.
“Those two incidents were the immediate reason for my arrival on the Board of Directors. When I entered I was actually surprised at how well it went. 1.2 million customers receive their payment on time every month. But I don’t close my eyes to the mistakes. We must ensure that everyone at the UWV looks at risks in addition to opportunities. We have taken steps in this regard. But a disclaimer: the UWV is a large organization with 18,000 employees, so mistakes will always occur. ”
“Yes, if you look at that first period in March, you can well imagine that employers saw it very gloomy. The Netherlands was closed and many companies saw turnover plummet. The scheme is structured in such a way that employers have to estimate their loss of turnover. You must have a crystal ball to make an estimate that turns out to be correct afterwards. In addition, we see that many wages have fallen, for example due to dismissal or because employees retired. Our estimate is therefore that quite a lot of employers have to pay back, some very hefty. But there are also employers who receive a supplementary payment. ”
“I’m not too happy with that comparison. We are dealing here with an emergency measure in an economically extremely difficult time where we have helped 140,000 employers and 2.6 million employees. With steam and boiling water, a huge boost has been given to employment. Everyone understands that this is a subsidy of tax money and that a settlement follows. The minister has also made a moral appeal to employers. ”
“The largest share, some 5.4 billion euros, has gone to large employers who have received more than a ton. They need an auditor’s report. But most applications came from employers employing less than ten people. Among them will be employers who find the process complicated and have made intentional or unintentional mistakes as a result. This group is monitored by random sampling by the ministry. That has a lot of experience with this. But something can always slip through. ”
“If employers have to repay, we make sure that there is an excellent repayment arrangement. Normally, the term is six weeks, but if an employer says: “That will not work”, it can be up to a year. If that also fails, we will see which repayment schedule is feasible. We do it as service-oriented as possible. ”
“During NOW 1, no one could have imagined what would happen. We thought it might be over in three or four months. So it makes sense that the idea was to maintain employment. That worked out well, but it must have kept companies afloat that otherwise would not have made it. That is why NOW 2 and NOW 3 have different conditions. Employers can now really start to adapt. ”
‘I do not think so. If you look at economic activity, our position is very different now than during the first wave. I realize the closer we get to a new intelligent lockdown, the more complicated it gets for employers. But there are industries that are still clamoring for people and I expect it to stay that way. So we have to use the NOW 3 to see whether people can get started in those branches. ”
“Sure, we have had to deal with NOW 1, NOW 2, NOW 3 and the number of unemployment applications is increasing all the time. We have to scale up enormously. (Since the corona crisis, the UWV has recruited 650 new employees and is looking for 550 more, ed.). From March onwards, we will be on an express train without time to get out and enjoy the surroundings. It rumbles on. “