Dozens of rogue employers in the Midlands failing to pay the national minimum wage have been fined up to £5,000 – with workers receiving an average £300 in back pay.
More than 26,000 workers denied the statutory wage have received a £4 million windfall following action by HM Revenue and Customs.
In 2012/13, HMRC investigated 1,693 complaints against employers for allegedly breaching minimum wage rules.
In the Midlands, total arrears of £270,294 have been paid back, while 74 employers in the region were issued with penalties following action from offices in Birmingham and Leicester.
The national crackdown resulted in 708 employers receiving automatic penalty charges of up to £5,000 and 26,519 employees receiving an average of £300 in back pay, topping up wages that had previously been paid below the legal minimum rate.
Employment Minister Jo Swinson said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is totally unacceptable. Whenever we find examples of businesses breaking the law we will crack down.
“Supporting fairness in the workplace is one of our key priorities and the national minimum wage is one way of making sure this happens. It supports as many workers as possible without damaging their employment prospects, which is why effectively enforcing the minimum wage is critically important in making sure it stays a success.
“The figures from last year show that HMRC can really help individuals who have been underpaid to claim back the money they are owed.”
Cases where HMRC have taken action against employers in the past year include a Midlands telecommunications company which repaid five workers over £1,800 and a nursery in the region ordered to repay over £1,900 to two workers incorrectly paid as trainees.
The minimum wage is £6.19 an hour for workers aged 21 and over.