Minimum pay shame for Primark billionaires

Sports Direct is a FTSE 250 company majority-owned and run by Mike Ashley

Image Sports Direct faced claims of Victorian working conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse in 2016

Sports Direct International PLC and Associated British Foods PLC's Primark have been named and shamed by the United Kingdom government for failing to pay the minimum wage after identifying 260 companies that had to refund GBP1.7 million to thousands of workers, the Telegraph reported Friday.

Primark was placed on the list after deducting money for their uniforms from their salaries, leaving them earning less than the minimum wage.

A Primark spokesperson said: "The average amount paid back per employee was £23.75 and relates to a workwear policy that was changed in 2016".

The low-priced fashion retailer said that following "a routine audit" from HM Revenue and Customs it had identified the error and the average amount paid per employee was £23.75.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy named 260 employers who it said had failed in some instances to pay National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates. "It has also reviewed its procedures in order to avoid this situation re-occurring". They face fines totalling £1.3m.

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Among them were 383 Sports Direct staff - short of £167,000 - after the company was at the centre of a storm over its pay, business practices and corporate governance a year ago.

A Sports Direct spokesman said: "This matter relates to the historical situation in our warehouse that was widely publicised in 2016, for which we apologised at the time".

"That's why today we are naming hundreds of employers who have been short changing their workers; and to ensure there are consequences for their wallets as well as their reputation, we've levied millions in back pay and fines".

"We cooperated fully with HMRC to make back payments to Sports Direct staff who were affected".

Business minister Margot James said there was no excuse for not paying staff the wages they're entitled to, and that the government would come down hard on companies that break the rules.

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"It is imperative that the Government keeps up the pressure on all employers who commit breaches of minimum wage law".

The TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady, said: "Today's list should put the frighteners on rogue employers across the country".

Bedruthan and Ramside Estates said they had not meant to underpay.

Ramside said its underpayment related to chefs working split shifts with a four-hour break in the middle of the day.

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