File picture: REUTERS
File picture: REUTERS

London — UK department-store chain Debenhams underpaid almost 12,000 workers, the government said, as it "named and shamed" its largest list to date of employers that failed to adhere to the legal minimum wage.

Debenhams had underpaid 11,858 workers by a total of almost £135,000, the business, energy and industrial strategy department said on Wednesday.

The retailer was the most prominent name on a list of the latest offenders dominated by smaller businesses, ranging from hotels and restaurants to nurseries and hair salons. In total, 360 businesses underpaid 15,520 workers by £995,233.

"Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this government will ensure they get it," Business Minister Margot James said.

The government is "sending the clear message to employers that minimum-wage abuses will not go unpunished".

“As soon as the error was identified by an audit last year, we reimbursed all those affected.”

Debenhams put the underpayment down to a "technical error in payroll calculations", identified by the tax agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). "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," the company said.

Since introducing the name-and-shame lists in 2013, the business department has identified more than 1,000 employers in breach of the rules, charging them more than £2m in fines and identifying arrears owed to employees totalling more than £4.5m.

The standard minimum wage is £7.20 an hour and will rise to £7.50 an hour in April.

Bloomberg

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