Employers have been slapped with a record £1.9 million fine and forced to dish out extra money to staff for failing to pay a minimum wage.
More than 13,000 low paid workers will be handed around £2 million in back pay after government investigations pinpointed firms not offering a National Minimum Wage or a Living Wage.
The review identified 233 employers who had deprived staff of a full wage, with catalogue retailer Argos emerging as the worst offender.
Business minister Margot James said: “It is against the law to pay workers less than legal minimum wage rates, short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers.
“Today’s naming round identifies a record £2 million of back pay for workers and sends the clear message to employers that the Government will come down hard on those who break the law.
“Common errors made by employers in this round included deducting money from pay packets to pay for uniforms, failure to account for overtime hours, and wrongly paying apprentice rates to workers.”
Argos, which was bought by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s last year, had not paid 12,176 people who worked for the firm close to £1.5 million, the Government found.
Sainsbury’s, who flagged the error in February, said the amount was actually £2.4 million for 37,000 people when taking into account both current and former staff.
The shortfall was linked to the timings of staff briefings before they had clocked on to their shifts, and security searches which could happen after workers had finished a shift.
All the staff have now received their back pay.
John Rogers, chief executive of Argos, said: “Shortly after we (Sainsbury’s) acquired the Argos business last year it was brought to my attention that, as part of a routine visit, HMRC had uncovered an issue with some Argos store systems and processes, which meant that some colleagues had been paid below the national living wage.
“Sainsbury’s prides itself on being a trusted brand where people love to work and I was, therefore, very disappointed to hear this and launched an immediate investigation.
“I am pleased to say the issue was resolved quickly and processes have been updated to ensure this cannot happen again.”
Retailers, hairdressers and hospitality firms were seen as the worst industries for under-paying staff.
The Government has fined 1,200 employers around £4 million and forced them to pay out £6 million to staff since 2013.