MasterChef judge underpaid staff $7.8m

GEORGE Calombaris has been slapped with a $200,000 fine after admitting to underpaying staff at his Melbourne restaurants nearly $8 million.

The celebrity chef and MasterChef host has agreed to make the "contrition payment" as part of a deal with the Fair Work Ombudsman after 515 current and former employees were underpaid to the tune of $7.83 million, Nine newspapers reports.

That dwarfs the previous number from Calombaris when the underpayment scandal first emerged in 2017. It had been estimated that 162 staff at Calombaris' Made Establishment group of restaurants were underpaid $2.6 million.

Under the enforceable undertaking, he must also effectively become an ambassador for the Fair Work Commission by making a series of public statements to promote compliance with the Fair Work Act.

According to reports, the Fair Work Ombudsman's four-year investigation into Made Establishment, whose restaurants include Jimmy Grants, The Press Club and Gazi, uncovered a raft of breaches including a failure to pay minimum award rates, overtime and other allowances.

The company also failed to keep proper records of hours worked by staff. Under the agreement, Calombaris will be required to implement new payroll and compliance systems and each venue must be independently audited for the next three years.

In a statement, Made Establishment confirmed it had entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman "after self-reporting incorrect payments of staff".

"The incorrect payments were identified by Made during a review in early 2017, following a change in ownership and management," the statement said.

"After an investigation, the FWO confirmed Made's finding that employees had been incorrectly classified and underpaid due to incorrect processes and failures within its payroll and human resources functions."

Made Group chief executive Leigh Small said all current team members were now correctly classified and new processes and procedures had been put in place.

"All current Made team members have been correctly classified, and all entitlements verified as owing to current and past employees have been calculated and paid, with a handful of claims now being finalised," he said.

"Since changing ownership, we have introduced a new CEO, a new people and culture director and new processes and procedures to ensure we're not only complying with workplace relations laws but actively promoting a culture of employee wellbeing.

"We look forward to continuing to grow our business and providing all team members with the tools, education and environment to succeed in their careers for years to come," he concluded.

Calombaris apologised to all former and current staff affected and committed to playing his part in helping influence positive change in the hospitality industry.

"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.

"We are committed to acting as a force for change in the industry and leading by example when it comes to building and promoting supportive, healthy and compliant hospitality workplaces."

frank.chung@news.com.au



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