Employers paying less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will be named and shamed under a new government scheme.

The sanction was announced in the same month that the NMW rose to £5.93 an hour for workers aged 21 and over.

Employment relations minister Edward Davey said that from January 1, 2011, cases featuring employers who breached the wage rules would be publicised by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

"Bad publicity can be a powerful weapon in the fight against employers who try to cheat their workers and their competitors," he said. "Their reputation can be badly damaged if they are seen flouting the law."

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates that there are around 250,000 jobs currently paying below the NMW in the UK. Complaints from workers concerned that they are not getting the right wage currently account for around 60% of HMRC minimum wage investigations. However, official statistics also show that complaints are often unfounded, and in 2009/10, of the total number of cases investigated by HMRC, 76% of employers were in fact found to be compliant.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) are campaigning for restraint when it comes to next year's increase. The ACS is calling for a total freeze on the rates, while the BRC is warning against any increase above 1.7%.

Director general Stephen Robertson said that even a small increase in the rates could "choke off retailers' vital potential to create new jobs."`

The Low Pay Commission, which advises the government on NMW rates, is currently compiling a report for the 2011 rate that will be presented to the government early next year.