Rockpool Dining Group's frontman Neil Perry and CEO Thomas Pash

Neil Perry-fronted Rockpool Dining Group will back pay staff $1.6 million through ‘top-up’ payments, after completing a reconciliation review of annualised salaries for eligible employees during the 2018 financial year.

In June this year, an investigation by Fairfax Media found Rockpool had underpaid vulnerable staff members, including migrant employees, who worked up to 70 hours per week in “harsh conditions”. It was reported that, in extreme cases, skilled chefs had worked “up to 30 hours’ unpaid overtime”.

After initially denying the reports of wage theft, CEO Thomas Pash told The Sydney Morning Herald the group is “committed to lifting industry standards”.

In a statement, the company said it is “keen to resolve” a range of “industry-wide” challenges, including disparate payroll systems and the complexity of multiple shifts, sites and rosters.

“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.

Rockpool Dining Group was formed in 2016 when Perry’s Rockpool Group was acquired by the Pash-led Urban Purveyor Group.

The company now has over 60 restaurants and bars including high-end venues like Rockpool Bar & Grill as well as casual eateries such as Burger Project. It has 2400 staff members across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, revenue totaling $300 million and an annual payroll of approximately $100 million.

Rockpool is one of many high-profile Australian restaurant operators to become embroiled in wage theft scandals. In 2017 George Calombaris’ restaurant group Made Establishment admitted to underpaying current and former staff members a total of $2.6 million.

Image: Neil Perry and Thomas Pash

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