Primark and Sports Direct have been named among the 260 businesses that had to refund workers £1.7m after failing to pay the minimum wage.
Value retailer Primark had to give back £231,973 to 9,735 workers after it deducted money for their uniforms from their salaries, leaving them earning less than the minimum wage.
A spokesman for Primark said: “Following a routine audit by HMRC, Primark confirms it has paid a number of its employees in instances where HMRC deemed these employees to have received less than the national minimum wage. The average amount paid per employee was £23.75 and relates to a workwear policy that was changed in 2016 and also to administration costs for court orders involving a small number of staff.
“The company is committed to the national minimum wage and has apologised to the employees concerned. It has also reviewed its procedures in order to avoid this situation re-occurring.”
Sports Direct failed to pay £167,036.24 to 383 workers.
A spokesman for Sports Direct said the matter is linked with its Shirebrook facility in 2016, when the retailer admitted to paying workers below the minimum wage.
He said: “This matter relates to the historical situation in our warehouse that was widely publicised in 2016, for which we apologised at the time. We cooperated fully with HMRC to make back payments to Sports Direct staff who were affected. We are committed to treating all our people with dignity and respect, and we pay above the national minimum wage.”
Sports Direct was criticised for the working conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse last year.
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 today 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.”
The National Living Wage is due to rise again in April 2018, from £7.50/hour to £7.83/hour for workers aged 25 and over.