MasterChef star George Calombaris underpaid his restaurant staff by millions of dollars over a period as long as six years.
The chef’s company, Made Establishment, released a statement on Monday, in which it said it had now paid $2.6 million to 162 full-time workers at Calombaris’ restaurants were impacted by underpayments for overtime. It had gone back as far as 2011 to check payments, and the average worker will receive just over $16,000 in backpay, Made Establishment said.
Calombaris said he was devastated by the long-running error and was working extremely hard to fix it.
“I want to be clear that getting it right means ensuring that every single one of our team members is paid what they are entitled to under the industry award, and that any outstanding money owed to staff is rectified as our highest priority,” he said in the statement.
The company said it became aware of the underpayment when it brought in big accounting consultancy KPMG this year to check over its book-keeping. KPMG reportedly found that almost half of the company’s staff were overpaid, while another large group were underpaid.
By way of explaining the blunder, Calombaris said the restaurant group, which owns well-known restaurants The Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic, had grown hugely over the past six years and its human resources and payroll departments hadn’t kept pace with the expansion.
“The historically poor processes in classifying employees led to more than half the affected team members being underpaid and almost half being overpaid their base salary,” Made Establishment said.
The company yesterday reported the issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman, and has called for former full-time employees at those three restaurants to contact it if they believed they had been underpaid. Staff at Jimmy Grants, another Calombaris restaurant, aren’t impacted by the error.