Celebrity chef fined for underpaying staff $7.8 million

The major restaurant company has entered into a Court-Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman

Celebrity chef fined for underpaying staff $7.8 million

Masterchef judge and celebrity chef George Calombaris has been fined after an investigation found his restaurant empire underpaid hundreds of Melbourne staff by almost $8 million.

The major restaurant company MADE Establishment Pty Ltd (MADE) has back-paid workers over $7.8 million in wages and superannuation. It now faces ongoing regulatory scrutiny after entering into a Court-Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

Fair Work inspectors investigated the MADE group of companies after a self-disclosure of underpayments at Press Club and Gazi restaurants in the Melbourne CBD and Hellenic Republic restaurants in Kew, Williamstown and Brunswick.

The FWO extended its investigation to some restaurants operated by Jimmy Grants Pty Ltd, a company which shares common shareholders and directors with the MADE group of companies.

Inspectors found that significant underpayments at the MADE group of companies occurred because they failed to correctly apply annualised salary arrangements for some staff.

This included failing to conduct annual reconciliations to check that workers on annual salary arrangements were paid for overtime and penalty rate hours worked.

Moreover, inspectors found that the MADE group companies and some Jimmy Grants sites did not pay some staff at the correct classification level for their duties under the Restaurant Industry Award, which particularly affected casual employees.

READ MORE: Underpayment of MCG Workers leads to hefty fine

MADE Establishment back-paid $7,832,953 to 515 current or former employees of Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic for work between 2011 and 2017. A further $16,371 has been back-paid to nine employees of Jimmy Grants.

Calombaris - who is a founding and current shareholder of MADE Establishment - apologised to all former and current staff affected.

“We apologise to all our affected team members, past and present – as it is our people that make our restaurants great, and it is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles,” he said.

Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that the EU would ensure improved wages and record-keeping practices were locked in at the MADE group.

“The Court-Enforceable Undertaking commits MADE Establishment to stringent measures to ensure that current and future employees across their restaurant group are paid correctly,” said Parker.

“MADE’s massive back-payment bill should serve as a warning to all employers that if they don’t get workplace compliance right from the beginning, they can spend years cleaning up the mess.”

READ MORE: Employers ordered to fork out for underpayments

Under the EU, Calombaris will complete speaking engagements to educate the restaurant industry on the importance of workplace compliance.

MADE Establishment will also make a $200,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The company must fund external auditors to check pay and conditions for workers across the entire group every year until the EU expires in 2022.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman is cracking down on underpayments in the Fast Food, Restaurant and Café sector, and we urge employers to check if they are paying their staff correctly.”

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