Rockpool Dining Group, which includes celebrity chef Neil Perry among its owners, will pay out $1.6 million to some of its 2,400-strong workforce who had been affected by underpayments.
In July this year, media reports suggested the company had been “significantly underpaying key staff as they work up to 70 hours a week in harsh conditions”.
Rockpool Dining Group owns a number of prominent eateries and hospitality brands, including Rockpool Bar & Grill, Rosetta, Bar Patron, The Bavarian and Burger Project, as well as Urban Craft Brewing Co and Rockpool Events Catering.
Rockpool CEO Thomas Pash “strenuously refuted” the allegations at the time, labelling them as “spurious, inaccurate and give an incomplete picture of our practices”.
Mr Pash said the group’s payroll system “registers actual hours worked so we can reasonably monitor hours, manage rosters, assign days off in lieu and pay overtime, which is paid in line with annualized award rates”.
However, following a review of annualised salaries, carried out in conjunction with accounting firm PwC, Rockpool has admitted it is liable to pay $1.6 million in “top-up payments” to workers who had in fact been underpaid.
“We are now notifying eligible employees of their personal outcomes, and will begin processing payments immediately. We will separately be reaching out to former employees in the coming days,” the company said in a statement.
It pointed out that the sum is small compared with its annual payroll of “approximately $100 million”.
Rockpool blamed complexity of the modern work environment and legacy systems for the errors.
“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.
“As identified by the industry body, Restaurant & Catering Australia, disparate payroll systems and the complexity of multiple shifts, sites and rosters pose an industry-wide challenge. For our part, it is one that we’re keen to resolve.”
Flaws with payroll infrastructure caused similar problems for retailer Lush, which revealed in the same month as the Rockpool allegations surfaced that it had inadvertently withheld around $2 million in worker payments.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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