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Argos told to cough up almost £1.5 million to 12,000 underpaid workers

Argos was the biggest offender in the latest round of naming and shaming (John Stillwell/PA Images)

Nationwide retail chain Argos tops a list of more than 230 firms named and shamed for paying workers below the minimum wage.

Argos – famous for its bumper Christmas catalogue – has been ordered to cough up almost £1.5 million in back pay to more than 12,000 members of staff.

In total, 233 businesses that underpaid workers by £2m have been collared by government inspectors in the latest crackdown, with more than 13,000 of the UK’s lowest paid employees set finally to get what they are owed.

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Retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders identified.

Frances O’Grady, head of the TUC, said there was no excuse for employers to claim ignorance about the minimum wage as it had been around for almost 20 years.

“This should be a wake-up call for employers,” she said. “If you cheat staff out of the minimum wage, your reputation will be dragged through the mud.”

O’Grady described the amount owed as huge. “But we know there are more wage-dodging employers out there,” she added. “TUC research suggests there are at least a quarter of a million workers being cheated out of the minimum wage.”

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Common errors made by employers included deducting money from pay packets to pay for uniforms, failure to account for overtime hours, and wrongly paying apprentice rates to workers.

Anyone aged over 16 must be paid the minimum wage – currently £4.05 per hour for 16-17-year-olds, £5.60 an hour for 18-20-year-olds and £7.05 per hour for 21-24-year-olds.

The National Living Wage of £7.50 an hour must be paid to all those aged 25 and over.

The top 10 worst offenders were:

  1. Argos Limited, Milton Keynes MK9, failed to pay £1,461,881.78 to 12,176 workers.
  2. Pearson Anderson Limited, Leicester LE1, failed to pay £49,800.41 to 169 workers.
  3. Fusion Hairdesign Ltd, Harrow HA3, failed to pay £24,352.90 to 6 workers.
  4. Nunthorpe Nurseries Group Ltd, Redcar and Cleveland TS7, failed to pay £22,831.38 to 118 workers.
  5. Vong’s Welcome Limited trading as Vong’s Hot Food Bar, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon BT32, failed to pay £18,575.34 to 1 worker.
  6. Maughan Microcomputers Limited trading as Console Doctor, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6, failed to pay £15,010.89 to 3 workers.
  7. Islington Accommodation Services Limited, Blackburn with Darwen BB2, failed to pay £14,447.82 to 1 worker.
  8. Mr Mohammed Yunas Chughtai, Mrs Azmat Ara Chughtai and Mr Aftab Chughtai trading as Aftabs, Birmingham B8, failed to pay £14,142.26 to 1 worker.
  9. Rudan Limited trading as Hershesons, Westminster W1S, failed to pay £14,141.06 to 7 workers.
  10. Mr Anthony Kenvig trading as Kenvig’s Hair Marriott, Preston PR3, failed to pay £9,698.04 to 2 workers.

As well as paying back staff the money owed, employers on the list have been fined a record £1.9 million by the government.

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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 … sends the clear message to employers that the government will come down hard on those who break the law.”