Tesco, Pizza Hut and Superdrug are among 139 companies that have been named and shamed by the government for failing to pay the minimum wage.
The employers short-changed more than 95,000 workers by a total of £6.7m during the period investigated between 2016 and 2018, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
Firms identified ranged from big household name companies to smaller operators including hotels, hairdressers and shops found to have underpaid just a handful of employees or just one.
Tesco was by far the biggest employer – and offender – on the list.
The supermarket giant was found to have underpaid 78,199 workers by just under £5.1m.
Tesco said its breach was the result of a “technical issue” identified in 2017 which meant that some workers’ pay “inadvertently fell below the national minimum wage”.
“We are very sorry this happened and proactively reported the issue to HMRC at the time,” it added.
Tesco said those affected had been reimbursed – with the sums involved £10 or less in most cases – and that it had taken a “proactive, transparent and cooperative approach”.
“We are therefore extremely disappointed and surprised to have been included in this list as none of the examples shared by BEIS relate to Tesco, and it was Tesco that self-reported this issue to HMRC in the first instance,” the supermarket said.
Pizza Hut failed to pay about £846,000 to 10,980 workers, according to the investigation.
It said that several years ago it had been made aware by HM Revenue and Customs of an “error relating to a historic uniform policy” and that there was “never any intent to underpay our employees”, while processes had been fixed to ensure it did not happen again.
Another well-known employer, Superdrug, short-changed 2,222 workers by just over £15,000.
Superdrug said after its breach of the rules, related to uniform, those affected were “swiftly reimbursed” and the uniform policy changed.
Business minister Paul Scully said: “It is never acceptable for any employer to short-change their workers, but it is especially disappointing to see huge household names who absolutely should know better on this list.”
BEIS said the list should “serve as a warning to rogue employers”.
Penalties for breaching the rules can be up to 200% of the arrears, capped at £10,000 per worker.
The government said each of the companies named has now paid the money to their workers and had also been forced to pay financial penalties.
Reasons for wage rules being broken included employees being made to cover work costs, such as for uniform or parking fees, out of their pay packet.
In other cases, employers failed to raise pay after they had a birthday which should have moved them up into a different bracket.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s a national scandal that so many workers, many of whom are key workers, aren’t being paid the minimum wage.”
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies to workers from school leaving age at rates rising from £4.15 an hour for an apprentice starting out to £8.20 for those aged 21-24.
From 25, the National Living Wage (NLW) – currently at £8.72 – takes effect.
The latest investigation covered breaches of minimum wage legislation under both NMW and NLW.
The latest “name and shame” list is the first published since 2018, after which the government decided to reform the process to target only the biggest offenders.