The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has named 260 employers for failing to pay 16,000 workers at least minimum wage rates.
Government investigators identified £1.7m in back pay for some of the UK’s lowest paid workers and fined employers £1.3m for underpayment.
Retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders in this round. Common reasons for errors made include: failing to pay workers travelling between jobs, deducting money from pay for uniforms and not paying for overtime.
High-profile names on the list include Primark and Sports Direct. Primark had to repay £231,973.12 mainly due to charging staff for uniforms. Sports Direct, and two staff agencies it used, had to pay back a total of £1.1m to their workers.
Business minister Margot James said: “There is no excuse for not paying staff the wages they’re entitled to and the government will come down hard on businesses that break the rules.
"That’s why we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short changing their workers; and to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we’ve levied millions in back pay and fines."
Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, said: “The Low Pay Commission’s conversations with employers suggest that the risk of being named is encouraging businesses to focus on compliance.
“Further, it is good to see that HMRC continues to target large employers who have underpaid a large number of workers, as well as cases involving only a few workers, where workers are at risk of the most serious exploitation. It is imperative that the government keeps up the pressure on all employers who commit breaches of minimum wage law.”
Since 2013, the scheme has identified £8m in back pay for 58,000 workers, with 1,500 employers fined a total of £5m. This year the government will spend a record £25.3m on minimum wage enforcement.