A RECRUITMENT firm in Bromsgrove has topped the list of companies failing to pay thousands of its workers the minimum wage.

The Best Connection Group Limited (TBC), based at Topaz Business Park, failed to pay £496,273 to 2,558 employees - the highest underpayment nationwide - and has since been fined by the government.

The figures, released today (Friday) by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, identified £1.7million in back-pay for a record 16,000 workers across the country.

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."

But Best Connections has insisted the firm was 'not aware' staff were being underpaid, and maintains it is a 'responsible employer'.

The underpayment involved temporary workers supplied to Sports Direct International PLC (SDI) to work at its warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, during a period ending at the start of 2016.

A spokesman said: "TBC paid its temps on the basis of the time records supplied by SDI.

"SDI configured its Kronos timekeeping system to operate so that a worker who clocked in less than 15 minutes late was nonetheless treated for pay purposes as if he or she had been 15 minutes late, and their time was therefore often under-recorded."

The firm also claims that workers were kept behind after clocking out, due to queues forming for implemented security checks.

The TBC spokesman said: "TBC were not aware that they were not paying national minimum wage to their temps and, in discussion with TBC, HMRC accepted that the underpayment was not TBC’s fault."

Best Connection has since made good on underpayments for its current temps, and is tracing former staff to award back-pay.

The spokesman added: "It is obviously disappointed that The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy considered it appropriate to publicly name TBC at this time, when the SDI investigation was effectively concluded over a year ago, and at that time had already been the subject of a great deal of publicity."

Balfour Evans Catering Ltd, trading as The Queens at Belbroughton, was also named on the list for failing to pay £290.51 to one worker.

Anyone concerned about being underpaid can visit checkyourpay.campaign.gov.uk.