16/08/2017 19:00 BST | Updated 17/08/2017 11:57 BST

Argos Forced To Pay £1.4m In Wages To 12,000 Workers It Underpaid

'If you cheat staff out of the minimum wage, your reputation will be dragged through the mud.'

Argos is being forced to pay £1.4m in wages after it emerged it underpaid more than 12,000 workers. 

The Government has named and shamed a total 233 firms that failed to pay staff the Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage - and the high street retailer was by far the worst offender.  

It was also fined £1.5m by HMRC, but that was reduced to £800,000 because the business agreed to pay its bill within 14 days. 

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TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said the list should be a "wake-up call" for businesses

The scale of the underpayments - which amount to about £120-per-person - was first uncovered last year ahead of Argos’ takeover by Sainsbury’s.

Small firms such as hairdressers, hotels, garages and nurseries make up the bulk of the list.

HMRC found businesses had been guilty of a range of pay breaches, from deducting money from wages to pay for uniforms, failing to pay overtime and paying workers apprentice wages.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This should be a wake-up call for employers. If you cheat staff out of the minimum wage, your reputation will be dragged through the mud.

“The minimum wage has been around for nearly twenty years. There is no excuse for employers to claim ignorance, or to blame problems on admin errors.

“Increasing investment in enforcement is clearly paying off. This is a huge amount of cash owed to low-paid workers. But we know there are more wage-dodging employers out there.

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Argos was acquired by Sainsbury's in 2016

“TUC research suggests there are at least a quarter of a million workers being cheated out of the minimum wage. We need to see strong unions in every workplace to stop these abuses from happening.”

In a letter to staff, John Rogers, chief executive of Argos, 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.”

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Business Minister Margot James said paying less the legal minimum was 'short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers'

“Today’s naming round identifies a record £2m 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.”

Melissa Tatton, Director at HMRC said: “HMRC is committed to getting money back into the pockets of underpaid workers, and continues to crack down on employers who ignore the law.

“Those not paying workers the National Minimum or Living Wage can expect to face the consequences.”

The top 20 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 Limitedtrading as Vong’s Hot Food Bar, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon BT32, failed to pay £18,575.34 to 1 worker.

  6. Maughan Microcomputers Limitedtrading 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 Chughtaitrading as Aftabs, Birmingham B8, failed to pay £14,142.26 to 1 worker.

  9. Rudan Limitedtrading as Hershesons, Westminster W1S, failed to pay £14,141.06 to 7 workers.

  10. Mr Anthony Kenvigtrading as Kenvig’s Hair Marriott, Preston PR3, failed to pay £9,698.04 to 2 workers.

  11. Mr William Gareth Griffiths & Mrs Llinos Griffithstrading as Gareth Griffiths, Ceredigion SY23, failed to pay £9,230.56 to 1 worker.

  12. Geoff Chapmantrading as North Cowton Service Station, Richmondshire DL7, failed to pay £8,229.11 to 3 workers.

  13. Miss Mackenzie Sanderstrading as Filo Horses, Swindon SN4, failed to pay £8,204.07 to 3 workers.

  14. Miss Reena Parmartrading as Antony Luka Hairdressing, Birmingham B42, failed to pay £7,353.22 to 1 worker.

  15. Nightingales of Kidderminster Limited, Wyre Forest DY10, failed to pay £6,895.75 to 9 workers.

  16. Wynyard Hall Limitedtrading as Wynyard Hall, Stockton-on-Tees TS22, failed to pay £6,040.05 to 3 workers.

  17. Mrs Dorothy Bellotrading as Rising Stars Daycare & Shining Stars Kids Club, Newham E16, failed to pay £5,515.06 to 4 workers.

  18. Bull Construction Limited, Wiltshire SN8, failed to pay £4,998.79 to 1 worker.

  19. The Fish and Chip Ship Limitedtrading as McMonagles, West Dunbartonshire G81, failed to pay £4,900.15 to 9 workers.

  20. DSL Accident Repair Ltd, City of Edinburgh EH14, failed to pay £4,896.43 to 3 workers