FWO undertaking requires chef to spruik compliance message

Celebrity chef George Calombaris must complete seven public speaking engagements encouraging workplace compliance and his hospitality empire will make a "contrition" payment, as part of a novel enforceable undertaking signed after the FWO exposed underpayments of more than $7 million by the company he founded.

According to a public apology in an enforceable undertaking executed yesterday by the FWO and Made Establishment, the hospitality group admits to multiple contraventions of the Fair Work Act after incorrectly applying annualised salary arrangements.

As well as failing to keep adequate time records for some annualised salary employees or conduct annual reconciliations to ensure it covered overtime and penalty rates, Made admits that it incorrectly classified some workers.

The FWC investigated Jimmy Grants and the Made Establishment's Hellenic Republic, Press Club and Gazi restaurants, after Made self-disclosed some underpayments uncovered after a change in ownership and management in early 2017.

Although Made originally estimated its underpayments to be about $2.6 million, the company says it has now back paid a total of $7.83 million to more than 500 current and former employees, while Jimmy Grants has back paid about $16,000 to nine workers.

The enforceable undertaking also requires Made to make a contrition payment of $200,000 to the Commonwealth, provide the FWO with results of annual audits for the next three years and roll out IR training to all HR, recruitment, on-site management and payroll employees.

It must also publish the apology on its social media channels and websites and pay to prominently place it in the Weekend Australian, the Saturday Age, the Saturday Herald Sun and several hospitality industry magazines.

Chef to champion compliance in "usual language and style"

The most novel aspects of the undertaking seek to leverage the public profile of celebrity chef and MasterChef judge Calombaris – a Made founding shareholder and a director until last year – to encourage industry compliance.

He must participate in at least seven named speaking engagements addressing "prominent industry audience[s]" over the next three-years, including the Food & Hospitality Queensland expo in August, Fine Food Australia in Sydney this September and Melbourne's Foodpro next July.

His talks must include "prominently, spoken content which communicates the need for compliance with workplace laws and the consequences of not doing so", including reference to the undertaking and Made's admitted contraventions.

It says this must be "communicated in a manner that is consistent with George Calombaris' usual language and style".

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said Made's "massive back-payment bill should serve as a warning to all employers that if they don't get workplace compliance right from the beginning, they can spend years cleaning up the mess".

Contrition payment "not enough": Unions

The ACTU and United Voice have hit out at the revealed quantum of underpayments as well as the amount of the required contrition payment.

Pointing out that the underpayments were originally estimated at about $2.6 million, United Voice national secretary Jo-anne Schofield said that "for the seriousness of this crime, a $200,000 fine is not sufficient".

She suggested that the FWO was lenient with him because of his status as a "multimillionaire restaurateur/celebrity chef".

ACTU President Michele O'Neil described the fine as paltry, but said the undertaking was a "win" for Made employees and a "huge encouragement to all other workers who are having wages stolen".

"This isn't an isolated indecent or an oversight by a handful of employers, this is a business model for the retail and hospitality sectors and we need to change the law to change behaviour," O'Neil said.

"The Government is doing nothing to address wage theft, or the integrity of employers, and instead is focused on legislation which attacks working people and is so extreme that is has no equivalent in the western world."

Calombaris was contacted for comment.

Enforceable undertaking between the Commonwealth of Australia (as represented by the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman) and MADE Establishment Pty Ltd ACN: 132 388 857 (17 July 2019)