Hospitality

Celebrity chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurants repay workers $1.6 million after unpaid overtime allegations

Dominic Powell /

Neil Perry Rockpool

John Dixon and Neil Perry.

One of Australia’s most prominent upmarket restaurant chains has announced it will backpay workers a total of $1.6 million after a number of employees were found to be underpaid.

In a statement today, Rockpool Dining Group said it had completed a reconciliation and analysis of its payroll and found a number of “top up payments” were required for its 2,400 staff which stretch across the group’s numerous restaurants, which include the Burger Project, Rosetta, and Rockpool Bar and Grill.

The restaurant group, which is fronted by Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry, blamed legacy systems and complexities with multiple shifts and rosters in the company’s $100 million yearly payroll as the reason for the underpayment, calling it an “industry-wide problem”.

“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,” the statement reads.

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

The repayments come after a Fairfax Media investigation earlier in the year alleged staff at various restaurants across the group were working as much as 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week, with workers blaming “unattainable” wage structures set by the group’s private equity owners.

”All that was ever talked about was the bottom line … You were told ‘you need to get these numbers’, I remember telling them that the labour numbers they wanted were impossible,” one former general manager told Fairfax at the time.

However, the backpayments have failed to halt a fair work ombudsman (FWO) investigation into further non-compliance at the group, with the workplace watchdog confirming to Fairfax its investigation would continue.

In its statement, Rockpool Dining Group earmarked further standardisation and compliance practices across the group in consultation with the FWO as an area the group was working on, along with “reviewing legacy employment instruments and systems” and better training and communication.

This isn’t the first time one of Rockpool’s restaurants have copped heat in recent times, with Perry himself apologising to a customer last year who received a racist note on his receipt after dining at the Burger Project.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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