The UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has called out more than 200 businesses, including major retailers WHSmith, M&S and Argos, for failing to pay minimum wage to staff.

As per the statement from DBT, WHSmith failed to pay £1.01m ($1.20m) to 17,607 workers.

Multinational retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) also failed to pay £578,390.8 ($739.4) to 5,363 workers.

In addition, Argos, a subsidiary of supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, did not pay £480,093.58 ($613.654) to 10,399 workers.

WHSmith responded to the allegation by saying that it had misinterpreted how the statutory wage regulations were applied to its uniform policy for staff working in its stores.

Reuters quoted the company as saying: “This was a genuine error and it was rectified immediately with all colleagues reimbursed in 2019.”

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By GlobalData

M&S also cited an unintentional technical issue from more than four years ago, which it said was resolved after it was identified.

Sainsbury’s clarified that the payroll error, which affected store workers and drivers, happened in 2012 before it acquired Argos.

The error was identified in 2018, Reuters reported citing a spokesperson.

The department ordered companies to repay workers and fined them nearly £7m ($8.9m) for the breaches.

UK Enterprise markets and small business minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Paying the legal minimum wage is non-negotiable and all businesses, whatever their size, should know better than to short-change hard-working staff.

“Most businesses do the right thing and look after their employees, but we’re sending a clear message to the minority who ignore the law: pay your staff properly or you’ll face the consequences.”