Retailers have been dealt a stark reminder on the importance of paying the National Living Wage after two news deliverers paid below the minimum wage were awarded back pay totalling more than £18,000.

It comes after HMRC pursued complaints from the deliverers who were reportedly paid an estimated £3.15 and 69p an hour. The group has said it is now examining whether 200 others may have been paid below the minimum wage.

Retailers have told Retail Newsagent how they ensure they are abiding by the law.

Martin Ward, of Cowpen Lane News in Billingham, said: “I have an accountant who does the wages. He’s a friend and I’ve had his help for as long as I’ve had the business. I’ve had a letter through the door to tell me the minimum wage goes up from 1 October.”

The stark warning comes just months after an adult deliverer paid around £5.50 an hour contacted Retail Newsagent asking whether his employer was legally obliged to pay the new rate that came into effect in April. At the time, Retail Newsagent discovered confusion which could lead to newsagents unintentionally breaking the law.

Retailers fear any store forced to make a similar pay out could be put out of business.

“In the business we’re in, you’re living week to week. It would just cripple our business,” said Mr Ward.

Martyn Brown, of News-2-You in Leeds, who said he ensures he is up-to-date on legislation through the trade press and the NFRN, added: “If I had to pay back that kind of money I don’t know what would happen to be honest. Independent retailers can’t recover from that.”

Brian Murphy, head of news at the NFRN, said retailers need to increase delivery charges to ensure their business is profitable and can continue to pay the correct wages.

“If retailers communicate the reasons behind the need to increase the charges to their customers they will invariably understand,” he said.