Department store Debenhams, sandwich chain Subway and clothing retailer Peacocks feature among 360 employers who have been named and shamed by the Government for not paying staff the national minimum wage.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has released its largest ever list of minimum and living wage offenders, who underpaid 15,520 workers by a total of £995,233.
Minimum wage resources
HMRC issued penalties worth around £800,000, and employers in the hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors were the most prolific offenders.
This is the first time the Government’s list has included employers who failed to pay eligible workers the national living wage, which is £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over.
Excuses for underpaying workers included believing that tips could form part of pay, docking workers’ wages to pay for their Christmas party and making staff pay for their own uniforms out of their salary.
Business Minister Margot James said: “Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this Government will ensure they get it.
“That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”
In a statement, Debenhams explained: “Debenhams made a technical error in its payroll calculations, which resulted in an average underpayment of around £10 per person to the affected colleagues in 2015.
“As a responsible employer, Debenhams is committed to the national minimum wage, and as soon as the error was identified by a routine HMRC audit last year, we reimbursed all those affected.
“We have apologised to all our colleagues affected and have taken steps to ensure it cannot happen again.”
The union Unite said the Government should take “much stronger action” to punish underpayers, calling its name and shame approach a “light tap on the knuckles”.
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary, said: “The fact that the Government has mounted only 13 prosecutions for non-compliance since 2007 is pathetic.
“In America, bad bosses are jailed and heavily fined for ‘wage theft’ which is what this is, exploiting workers in such a shameful fashion.
“If top executives with mega pay packets weren’t getting their bonuses paid on time, all hell would break loose.”