The government has “named and shamed” nearly 200 companies for breaking minimum wage laws after bosses withheld over £2m.
The 191 businesses in the spotlight include football clubs, cleaning contractors and household names such as John Lewis and The Body Shop.
HMRC investigations detected a total of £2.1m was owed to more than 34,000 workers since 2011 – though the figure may well be higher when those not caught are included.
The named employers have been made to pay back what they owed and were fined an additional £3.2m for their offences.
John Lewis said it was “surprised and disappointed” to be on the list released by the Business Department on Thursday.
“This was a technical breach that happened four years ago, has been fixed and which we ourselves made public at the time,” said a John Lewis Partnership spokesperson.
“The issue arose because the Partnership smooths pay so that partners with variable pay get the same amount each month, helping them to budget.
“Our average minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage and is currently 15 per cent above it.”
Other organisations named by the government department included Enterprise Rent A Car, The Body Shop International, Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic, Crewe, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth football clubs and Worcestershire Cricket Club.
The most common violation, committed by half of the employers named, is wrongly deducting pay from workers’ wages, including for uniforms and expenses.
A further 30 of the companies failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime, while 19 per cent of the firms paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.
Paul Scully, the business minister, said: “Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay. It is unacceptable for any company to come up short.
“All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly.
“This government will continue to protect workers’ rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won’t get off lightly.”
Bryan Sanderson, the chair of the Low Pay Commission, said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors, including care.
“The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”
But Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow secretary for employment rights, highlighted the low number of prosecutions.
“The government isn’t doing nearly enough to crack down on companies who pay under the national minimum wage,” he said.
“Just six employers have been prosecuted for paying employees less than the minimum wage in the last six years despite more than 6,500 breaches having been found.
“Laws protecting workers aren’t worth the paper they are written on if they are not enforced, but weak employment rights and a lack of enforcement action leaves too many working people vulnerable to this exploitation.”
The government regularly names companies under rules brought in under the coalition government. A total of 2,300 employers have been named since the current scheme was introduced in 2014.