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Primark, Sports Direct Under Fire for Underpaying Workers

U.K. retailers Primark and Sports Direct, are being called out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) for underpaying their workers.

On Friday, Beis named 260 companies that it found was paying workers below the national minimum wage, BBC News reported. Primark, Sports Direct and Sports Direct’s two staff agencies were among the top five companies on the list.

Primark, which was third among culprits, was ordered to repay 231,973.12 pounds ($310,755) to workers, largely because it charged staff for uniforms when it shouldn’t have. The issue isn’t a new one for Primark—a spokesperson from the company told BBC that it “had reviewed its procedures to avoid this situation re-occuring,” but it seems the process didn’t in fact prevent the reoccurrence. The repayment amounted to 23.75 pounds ($31.82) for each of the roughly 10,000 workers affected by the charge.

Sports Direct, and its two staff agencies had to pay back a total of $1.5 million to more than 4,000 workers. The retailer told BBC that the underpayment correlated to a “historical situation in our warehouse that was widely publicized in 2016.” Last year, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigated Sports Direct’s main distribution center in Shirebrook, Derbyshire—which revealed that some workers’ pay was below the minimum wage. The investigation found that some workers were docked a quarter of an hour’s pay if they were one minute late and after shifts, were required to wait in line for an average of 11 minutes to undergo security checks.

[Read more on the U.K.: U.K. Pledges $53 Million to Combat Modern Slavery, Including in the Garment Industry]

In all, Beis fined the offending companies a total of 1.3 million pounds ($1.74 million).

In addition to naming and fining, Beis said the list had the highest number of workers impacted by unfair payment since 2013.  The government department noted that 16,000 workers didn’t receive wages that met the minimum wage over the past six months. Beis said the core reasons for companies underpaying workers included not paying overtime, deducting money for uniforms and failing to pay workers who were traveling between jobs.

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