Argos flouts national minimum wage in £2.4m underpayments

High street chain Argos, now owned by Sainsbury’s, is being asked to pay £2.4m in back wages and a £1.5m fine after an HMRC investigation found the company had been paying less than the national minimum wage (NMW) to thousands of workers

The underpayment happened because staff were asked to staff to attend briefings and take part in security checks outside the working hours for which they were paid, after they had clocked out of their shifts. It relates to around 37,500 Argos employees, made up of 12,000 current employees and more than 25,000 former staff.

Argos was acquired by Sainsbury’s in a £1.4bn takeover deal last year. John Rogers, the former Sainsbury's finance chief who now heads up Argos, has explained that the mistake was discovered by HMRC during a routine visit.

The fine has been discounted to £800,000 after Argos agreed to pay within a fortnight. Sainsbury’s said it was planning on processing the payments due to staff by the end of the week, with an average payment of £64 each to those affected.

A list of 360 employers who underpaid 15,520 workers a total of £995,233 was released this week by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with hairdressing, hospitality and retail sectors the most prolific offenders.

As well as recovering arrears, HMRC issued penalties worth around £800,000. For the first time, the list includes employers who failed to pay eligible workers at least the new National Living Wage, currently £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over.

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