Argos has topped a new list of UK businesses that failed to pay its workers a minimum wage.
More than 13,000 low-paid workers employed by 233 different business will be handed around £2 million in back pay after government investigations named firms not offering a national minimum wage or a living wage.
Of that total back pay identified, £1.46 million is from Argos alone, making it the worst offender on the list.
Employers have also 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.
“It is against the law to pay workers less than legal minimum wage rates, short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers,” business minister Margot James said.
“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 acquired by Sainsbury’s last year, had not properly paid 12,176 people, the government found.
However, Sainsbury’s flagged the error back in February and said the amount was actually £2.4 million for 37,000 people when taking into account both current and former staff.
The retailer added that the issue has since been resolved and all staff have now received their back pay.
“Shortly after (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,” Argos chief executive John Rogers said.
“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.”
The government has fined 1200 employers around £4 million and forced them to pay out £6 million to staff since 2013.
Earlier this year, Debenhams topped a similar list of offending businesses for failing to pay £134,894 to 11,858 of its workers.
The department store chain said at the time that the issue was swiftly resolved.