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UK Companies Have Given Back £215 Million of Government COVID-Relief Money

In a remarkable showing of civic unity, one that proves even publicly traded, infinite-growth oriented firms understand moral responsibility, UK companies have returned or denied claims to £215 million ($275 million) which was either to given to them in error, or went unused as part of Britain’s coronavirus stimulus plan.

According to data from the UK’s version of the IRS, the HMRC, these returned funds came from 80,500 separate employers including some very large firms.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), also known as the furlough scheme—a term which describes the placing of a worker on leave for a lower percentage of their overall salary—the government has granted £35.4 billion ($45.2 billion) in total payments to businesses so far.

“HMRC welcomes those employers who have voluntarily returned CJRS grants to HMRC because they no longer need the grant, or have realized they’ve made errors and followed our guidance on putting things right,” HMRC said at the time, according to the BBC.

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Property developers Redrow and Barratt-Taylor Wimpey have both returned all the furlough money they have so far claimed. Other firms to do so include Games Workshop, the distribution giant Bunzl, and the Spectator magazine, which all together are worth around £1.5 billion ($1.92 billion) a year.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea also gave back the furlough money they originally claimed, saying they didn’t need it.

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Department stores Primark and John Lewis, as well as supermarket chain Sainsburys, have also shown civic support for the world’s most comprehensive and generous coronavirus relief program.

They have refused to collect £1,000 ($1,277) bonus payments for each furloughed employee they bring back and keep employed through the holiday season.

In Primark’s case this total amounted to £30 million ($38 million) alone.

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