News National Star chef Neil Perry puts $1.6m on the table to settle staffers’ underpayment claims
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Star chef Neil Perry puts $1.6m on the table to settle staffers’ underpayment claims

neil perry
Mr Perry sold the group in 2016 but remains as a major shareholder. Photo: Rockpool
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The restaurant chain fronted by Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry says it is “keen to resolve” payroll issues, and will backpay its workers $1.6 million to reconcile wages.

The Rockpool Dining Group business includes the opulent Rockpool Bar and Grill venues in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth as well as dozens of other restaurants and bars across Australia.

It is one of several high-profile hospitality businesses to become caught up in claims of underpayment of workers, alongside restaurants associated with George Calombaris and Shannon Bennett, and cafe chain Degani.

The company employs more than 2400 people and manages a payroll of about $100 million.

In a statement, the company said a review of annualised salaries paid to its employees during the 2017-18 financial year revealed workers were owed $1.6 million in wages, which will be made in top-up payments.

“We are now notifying eligible employees of their personal outcomes, and will begin processing payments immediately,” the statement said.

“We will separately be reaching out to former employees in the coming days.”

‘Industry-wide challenge’

Many hospitality industry workers are hired on annualised salaries, where employees agree to a yearly wage instead of being paid by the hour.

Annual salaries must be 25 per cent above the minimum rate set out in the award to cover “reasonable” overtime, penalties and other benefits.

The salary must also be more than what staff would be entitled to if they were being paid by the hour, claiming all entitlements like overtime and penalties.

Any shortfall must be made up at the end of the financial year or when an employee leaves the business.

The food at Rockpool eateries is rich – unlike staffers who say they were stiffed on their wages. Photo: Rockpool

The statement said the business was working hard to overcome an issue affecting the hospitality industry as a whole.

“Like many businesses in the restaurant industry, the group has had to work hard to replace and modernise legacy systems and procedures and that work continues,” it said.

The statement said the complexity of managing a payroll of staff involving multiple shifts, sites and rosters posed “an industry-wide challenge”.

“For our part, it is one that we’re keen to resolve,” it said.

Earlier this year, the Fair Work Ombudsman launched investigations into several high-profile eateries over claims of underpayment and non-payment of penalty rates.

-ABC

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