HMRC has issued more than £629,000 in penalties to 92 companies on a February 'name and shame' list Reuters

The UK's tax watchdog is pursuing eight employers more than a month after they were "named and shamed" as minimum wage cheats. Business minister Nick Boles made the admission on 8 March after being pressed on the issue of National Minimum Wage enforcement by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

The top Tory also said the government had issued more than £629,000 ($892,506) in penalties to the 92 companies and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) compliance officers were pursuing the employers who have not paid up.

The development comes after the Department for Business claimed London firm Total Security Services (TSS) topped its "name and shame" list for February after apparently failing to pay more than £1.7m to 2,519 employees.

The company told IBTimes UK that it was "very disappointed" to be named on the list and alleged that the government had painted the firm in a "misleading light".

"We have always paid staff above the minimum wage and only took part in an HMRC-approved Salary Sacrifice Scheme because it benefited staff, increasing their take-home pay," a spokesperson for TSS said.

"We made an inadvertent mistake when a technical rule in this scheme changed, (after it ran successfully and compliantly for over three years), and which our professional advisers did not pick up on audit. As soon as the mistake came to our attention, we withdrew the scheme in 2014.

"We are one of the longest established and most respected security companies in the UK and one of the very few to be Investors-In-People-accredited. We are a family firm and take great pains to look after our staff well."

Massive hike in arrears

The Business Secretary Sajid Javid announced in 2015 that the government would set up a new team in HMRC to take forward criminal prosecutions for those who "deliberately do not comply" with National Minimum Wage law. The Department for Business told IBTimes UK it did not seek a criminal prosecution for the TSS case.

"Our number one priority is getting workers the money they are owed, and the civil route is more successful in achieving this," a spokesperson for the ministry said.

"Prosecution is reserved for the most serious cases. HMRC will refer cases to the CPS, who decide whether to prosecute. The fine imposed by criminal courts prosecuting employers is often less severe than civil penalties imposed on employers by HMRC."

HMRC told IBTimes UK that the department does no discuss individual cases. However, the watchdog said it had clawed back more than £8m for 46,000 workers, who had been illegally underpaid by 557 firms between April and November 2015.

NMW investigations
NMW investigations HMRC/Low Pay Commission

The figure is substantially more than the £3.29m arrears collected by the government in 2014/15. The government said it has identified £57.7m in arrears for over 255,000 workers during more than 67,000 employer interventions since minimum wage enforcement began in April 1999.

Employers named for underpayment
Employers named for NMW underpayment

A new National Living Wage is set to come into force in April. The move will also see the statutory hourly rate rise by 50p to £7.20 for workers over the aged of 25. But the current National Minimum Wage of £6.70 will stay in place for employees aged 21 to 24.