HMRC
According to HM Revenue and Customs figures, the wage arrears were paid out after 1,455 investigations were conductedReuters

The UK government has distributed more than £4.6m to 22,000 workers after cracking down on minimum wage cheats.

According to HM Revenue and Customs figures, the wage arrears were paid out after 1,455 investigations were conducted by the government's National Minimum Wage enforcement team last year.

The ministry also disclosed that HMRC issued 652 financial penalties worth £815,269 ($1.3m, €1m) over the same period.

The NMW came into force in 1998 under New Labour.

The legislation now means that workers over 21 are entitled to £6.31 per hour.

"Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal and, as HMRC's record shows, if employers break the law they will face tough consequences," said business minister Jenny Willott .

"We want to issue a clear warning to employers who fail to pay the minimum wage: under the government's new rules you will be named and shamed and face a stiff financial penalty."

The figures come after IBTimes UK revealed that the government's NMW cheat hotline received a record number of complaints after a 22% reduction in staff.

According to a Freedom of Information Request, seven government employees worked on the Pay and Work Rights Helpline between September 2012 and September 2013.

The document also disclosed that the hotline received a record amount of complaints (3,750) over the same period.

The free and confidential helpline, which was launched in September 2009, passes complaints over to HMRC to investigate the claims.

The service also offers employees and companies some advice on the NMW and employment rights.

If you have any questions about the national minimum wage phone the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on tel: 0800 917 2368.