More than 22,000 workers who were illegally paid less than the National Living or Minimum Wage are to receive millions of pounds in backpayments, the Government has announced.

A total of 239 employers were found to have underpaid workers by £1.44 million, with the earliest of these underpayments dating back to 2011, and the most recent being this year.

These employers will now have to pay back arrears of wages to the worker at current minimum wage rates and may face financial penalties.

See our Boost Your Income guide for ways to increase your current earnings.

How were the workers underpaid?

If you're aged 16 or over you're owed the minimum wage and if you're 25 and over you're owed the 'National Living Wage' (which is essentially just another name for a minimum wage). Here are the current rates:

  • Those aged 25 and over – £7.83/hr
  • Those aged 21-24 – £7.38/hr
  • Those aged 18-20 – £5.90/hr
  • Those aged 16-17 – £4.20/hr
  • Apprentices – £3.70/hr

The Government says the top five reasons these rates weren't paid were that employers:

  • took deductions from wages for costs such as uniforms
  • underpaid apprentices
  • failed to pay travel time
  • misused the accommodation offset - a rate employers can deduct if they offer accommodation
  • used the wrong time periods for calculating pay

I've been underpaid - how do I get cash back?

All the underpayments announced by the Government today have already been reported, so employers will already be in the process of repaying them, or may have even already repaid them.

If you believe you have been underpaid, you should report this to your manager or contact your former employer if you've left the company.

However, if you've done this and had no success, you should report the incident to HMRC, which you can do via this online form. You can do this on behalf of someone else and you can also do it even if you no longer work for the person or organisation that has underpaid you.

You can find more information about the common reasons people are underpaid on the Government's Check Your Pay website.

What does the Government say?

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: "Our priority is making sure workers know their rights and are getting the pay they worked hard for. Employers who don’t do the right thing face fines as well as being hit with the bill for backpay.

"The UK's lowest paid workers have had the fastest wage growth in 20 years thanks to the introduction of the National Living Wage and today's list serves as a reminder to all employers to check they are getting their workers' pay right."