Debenhams has been “named and shamed” by the Government after topping a list of firms who are said to have underpaid their staff.

The retailer has been fined £63,000 as a result of the incident.

The Government’s department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) revealed a list of 360 employers who were found to be paying their workers below the national minimum or living wage.

Debenhams came top of the list after the HMRC claimed it had underpaid a total of 11,858 workers, amounting to a wages shortfall of close to £135,000.

However, the department store business said the discrepancy was caused by a technical error in its accounts, which it has since rectified.

A Debenhams spokeswoman said: “Debenhams made a technical error in its payroll calculations, which resulted in an average underpayment of around £10 per person to the affected colleagues in 2015.

“As a responsible employer, Debenhams is committed to the national minimum wage and as soon as the error was identified by a routine HMRC audit last year, we reimbursed all those affected.

“We have apologised to all our colleagues affected and have taken steps to ensure it cannot happen again.”


Employers in the retail, hairdressing and hospitality industries were described by the Government as “the most prolific offenders” when it came to underpaying workers.

A total of 51 retail employers were named on the list, owing a total of £220,000 in arrears to 167 workers. Most of those were smaller, independent businesses.

The hospitality sector, however, was the worst offender.

Business minister Margot James said: “Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum or living wage and this Government will ensure they get it.

“That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”

More than 1,500 other cases are currently being investigated and eligible employers will be named after their cases have been closed.

As well as recovering arrears for the workers, HMRC has issued penalties worth around £800,000.

National living wage

The new national living wage rate is currently set at £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over, but is due to increase again on April 1.

Last year, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh declared that she will be taking action against the “huge number of retailers” that have been “involved in reducing people’s take-home pay” in order to bring in the national living wage.

She targeted M&S, delivering a petition with more than 90,000 signatures to bosses at its flagship store on Oxford Street.