Companies which have stores in Hartlepool underpaid workers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy today names 260 employers nationwide for failing to pay 16,000 workers at least minimum wage rates.
Investigators identified £1.7million in back pay for some of the lowest paid workers and fined employers £1.3 million for underpayment.
Retail, hairdressing and hospitality businesses were among the most prolific offenders.
Common reasons for errors made include: failing to pay workers travelling between jobs and not paying for overtime.
Firms highlighted include Sports Direct, which failed to pay £167,036.24 to 383 workers, and fashion retailer Primark, which owed £231,973.12 to 9,735 workers.
Both have stores in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange shopping centre.
Ramside Estates Limited, which runs Ramside Hall Hotel on the outskirts of Durham City and Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield, is one of the businesses named after it failed to pay a total of £17,536.59 to eight workers.
Bosses at Ramside Estates said that the issue related to a problem with a clocking in machine.
John Adamson, from the company, said: “Ramside Estates has been in business for 54 years and is one of the longest standing hospitality businesses in the North East.
“We have always paid our staff the minimum wage and above and unfortunately this particular situation arose because of an issue with the clocking in machine, where chefs who were on split shifts – with a four hour break in the middle of the day – appeared as if they were working through for 12 hours.
“Because of that it seemed as if their hourly rate was below the minimum wage, which in reality was not the case.
“We pointed this out to the inspectors but they did not accept our explanation.
“To ensure this situation does not arise again, our contracts of employment now allow people who work more than a 48-hour week to be reimbursed, although this is challenging for the hospitality industry where long hours have always been the norm.
“It does seem that the hospitality industry is being particularly targeted and that we are being made a scapegoat in this instance.”
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.”