Primark and Sports Direct have been fined after the Government found that both retailers had underpaid their staff.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which identified that 16,000 employees nationwide had been underpaid by £1.7m, named the pair as the top offenders among retailers.

Primark and Sports Direct came third and fourth, respectively, in a list of 260 companies which were found to have underpaid the national minimum wage and national living wage.

Primark underpaid 9,735 staff by £231,973 while Sports Direct underpaid 383 employees by £167,036.

The 260 companies have been fined £1.3m in total in addition to owing £1.7m in back pay.

Common reasons for errors including failing to pay overtime and deducting money for uniforms.

Business minister Margot James said: “There is no excuse for not paying staff the wages they’re entitled to and the Government will come down hard on businesses that break the rules.

“That’s why today we are naming hundreds of employers who have been shortchanging 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.”

A Primark spokesperson said: “Following a routine audit by HMRC, Primark confirms it has paid a number of its employees in instances where HMRC deemed these employees to have received less than the national minimum wage.

“The average amount paid per employee was £23.75 and relates to a workwear policy that was changed in 2016, and also to administration costs for court orders involving a small number of staff.

“The company is committed to the national minimum wage and has apologised to the employees concerned. It has also reviewed its procedures in order to avoid this situation re-occurring.”

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

“We cooperated fully with HMRC to make back payments to Sports Direct staff who were affected. We are committed to treating all our people with dignity and respect, and we pay above the national minimum wage.”