More than 200 businesses have been named and shamed by the Government for failing to pay their staff the minimum wage.

The 202 employers were found to have failed to pay their workers almost £5 million in a breach of National Minimum Wage law.

The underpayment has left around 63,000 workers out of pocket.

Companies being named range from major high street brands, such as Argos, Lloyds Pharmacy, WH Smith and Marks and Spencer, to small businesses and sole traders.

The Northern Echo: Companies being named range from major high street brands, such as Argos, Lloyds, WHSmith and Marks and SpencerCompanies being named range from major high street brands, such as Argos, Lloyds, WHSmith and Marks and Spencer (Image: Getty/Ceri Breeze)

Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff.

“Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences.”

The businesses named in the list have since paid back what they owe to their staff and have also faced financial penalties.

The investigations by HMRC concluded between 2017 and 2019.

Bryan Sanderson Chair of the Low Pay Commission said: “The minimum wage acts as a guarantee to ensure all workers without exception receive a decent minimum standard of pay.

“Where employers break the law, they not only do a disservice to their staff but also undermine fair competition between businesses.

“Regular naming rounds should be a useful tool in raising awareness of underpayment and helping to protect minimum wage workers.”

The Government said Lloyds Pharmacy were another employer at fault, reporting that it failed to pay £903,307 to 7,9116 workers.

It also reported that Marks & Spencer failed to pay £578,390 to 5,363.

In response, an M&S spokesman said: “Like many other organisations, M&S is only named in the list because of an unintentional technical issue from over four years ago.

“This happened simply because temporary colleagues were not paid within the strict time periods specified in the national minimum wage regulations and was remedied as soon as we became aware of the issue.

“Our minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage, it is currently above it and no colleagues were ever underpaid because of this.”

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s-owned retailer Argos was named for failing to pay £480,093 to over 10,000 workers.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Back in 2018, a payroll error was identified which affected some Argos store colleagues and drivers and dated back to 2012, before Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos.

“We launched an immediate investigation, working alongside HMRC, and put this right at the time.

“Since then we have completed the integration of Argos onto Sainsbury’s systems which will prevent this from happening again.”

A spokesman for WH Smith said: “Following a review with HMRC in 2019, and in common with a number of retailers, it was brought to our attention that we had misinterpreted how the statutory wage regulations were applied to our uniform policy for staff working in our stores.

“This was a genuine error and it was rectified immediately with all colleagues reimbursed in 2019.”

You can find the full list of 202 businesses named and shamed by the Government here.

The employers named today previously underpaid workers in the following ways:

  • 39% of employers deducted pay from workers’ wages.
  • 39% of employers failed to pay workers correctly for their working time.
  • 21% of employers paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.

Since 2015, the budget for minimum wage enforcement has doubled with the government having ordered employers to repay over £100 million to 1 million workers.