More than 350 employers have been named and shamed by the government for paying below the national minimum or living wage. 

The list of 359 companies, compiled by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, includes big name retailers such as Debenhams, Subway and Lloyds Pharmacy. 

At least 15,500 of the UK’s lowest paid workers were repaid nearly £1 million following government investigations, which found the worst offenders to be employers in hospitality, hairdressing and retail. 

Excuses for underpaying workers included using tips to top up pay and docking wages either to pay for their Christmas party or uniform. 

The findings follow the recent launch of a £1.7 million government campaign aimed at encouraging the UK’s lowest paid workers to check they are being paid the correct rates and to report employers who break the law. 

Workers under 25 receive the national minimum wage, which is currently £5.55 for 18- to 20-year-olds and £6.95 for those aged 21 to 24 years. 

Since this name and shame list was introduced in October 2013, more than 1,000 employers have been named, at least £4.5 million in arrears collected and more than £2 million in fines issued to offenders. 

This is the first time employers who failed to pay the national living wage – currently £7.20 an hour - have been named and shamed. 

Earlier findings by the Office of National Statistics suggest the numbers could be significantly higher, claiming an estimated 362,000 jobs held by employees aged 16 and over were paid less than the national minimum or living wages in April 2016. 

Rakesh Patel, head of employments rights strategy at Thompsons, said: “To learn that so many companies, including big name employers who should know better, have been flouting the rules is disgraceful. It’s absolutely right that they should be named and shamed, and hopefully this list will act as a wake-up call, deterring others tempted to cheat employees out of their wage. 

“Unfortunately, simply naming them may not be enough. The fact that so many companies feel they can flout the law suggests the government needs to consider tougher prosecutions and higher fines.”