George Calombaris Responds To Underpayment Case

Published July 19, 2019 (last updated August 12, 2020) -

George Calombaris says there’s “no excuse” for his restaurant group underpaying it’s staff but he rejects accusations of wage theft.

Yesterday MADE Establishment, Calombaris’ restaurant business, had their court-enforceable undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman made public. On top of their $7.8 million back-payment to staff, MADE also had to make a $200,000 contrition payment.

“There are two important things for Australians to know. The first is that when we discovered there were incorrect payments to members of the team, we self reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman and co-operated with their investigation,” Calombaris told the Herald Sun, in a statement (via the Daily Mail).

“The second is that our team members, past and present, have been back-paid in full, and the vast majority repaid before October 2017 in consultation with Fair Work.

“There is no excuse for this and we have the systems in place now.”

On top of the $200,000 payment, MADE must engage an external auditor for the next three years to maintain workplace compliance and provide all management and HR staff with workplace relations training.

MADE will also implement new payroll and compliance systems in their 15 restaurants. Celebrity chef George Calombaris, who is associated with MADE, must also undertake seven speaking arrangements on the topic of workplace compliance, in front of prominent restaurant industry audiences.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) began their investigation into MADE in 2015, after staff contacted the government watchdog with concerns.

After a new investor became involved in the business in 2016, as part of due diligence processes, more compliance discrepancies were discovered. A year later, MADE reported itself to the FWO.

Employsure’s Senior Client Adviser Michael Wilkinson says that MADE’s non-compliance may easily be a case of incorrect HR advice.

“Not knowing the ins-and-outs of the case, it’s hard to say what exactly has transpired within MADE. However what I can say and know from experience is that even with a large, well-resourced company, compliance is a hard job,” Wilkinson said.

“Calculating the myriad of award rates, overtime, penalty rates, and being across all the applicable state and federal laws is a hard task.

“If it was easy, I don’t think thousands of businesses across Australia would find a need for employment relations advice services like Employsure.”

This news comes as it is reported that other large restaurant chains by celebrity chefs are being investigated by the FWO.

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