Retail giants WH Smith, Marks & Spencer and Argos who have stores in Bolton, are among firms who have been “named and shamed” by the Government for breaking the minimum wage law.

Almost £5 million was found to be owed to around 63,000 workers following investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs dating back as far as 2017.

Named employers have been made to pay back what they owed, and in addition were fined around £7 million.

All three have stores in Bolton, with WH Smith in Bolton Town Centre, Argos on Trinity Retail Park, and M&S now only at Middlebrook following the closure last month of the town centre store.

The Bolton News: PAPA (Image: PA)

High street retailer WH Smith was the worst offender, according to HMRC, with the new figures claiming it failed to pay around £1 million to 17,607 workers.

The retailer blamed this on an error related to its company uniform policy.

A spokesman for WH Smith said: “Following a review with HMRC in 2019, and in common with a number of retailers, it was brought to our attention that we had misinterpreted how the statutory wage regulations were applied to our uniform policy for staff working in our stores.

“This was a genuine error and it was rectified immediately with all colleagues reimbursed in 2019.”

The Government said Lloyds Pharmacy were another employer at fault, reporting that it failed to pay £903,307 to 7,9116 workers.

Lloyds has been contacted for comment.

Great Lever has a Lloyds Pharmacy on Rupert Street.

Marks & Spencer also failed to pay £578,390 to 5,363.

In response, an M&S spokesman said: “Like many other organisations, M&S is only named in the list because of an unintentional technical issue from over four years ago.

“This happened simply because temporary colleagues were not paid within the strict time periods specified in the national minimum wage regulations and was remedied as soon as we became aware of the issue.

“Our minimum hourly pay has never been below the national minimum wage, it is currently above it and no colleagues were ever underpaid because of this.”

It comes after the retailer recently closed down its Bolton Town Centre store, leaving many disgruntled shoppersm, who said they had visted the store almost every day.

It shut si abruptly on the last trading day, that many people were waiting outside to as they thought it was still open.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s-owned retailer Argos was named for failing to pay £480,093 to over 10,000 workers.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Back in 2018, a payroll error was identified which affected some Argos store colleagues and drivers and dated back to 2012, before Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos.

“We launched an immediate investigation, working alongside HMRC, and put this right at the time.

“Since then we have completed the integration of Argos onto Sainsbury’s systems which will prevent this from happening again.”