Neil Perry’s Rockpool Restaurant Group Forks Out $1.6M To Underpaid Staff

The Rockpool Dining Group, the restaurant chain fronted by celebrity chef Neil Perry, is forking out approximately $1.6 million in back pay to staff, some of whom frequently put in in dozens of weekly hours of unpaid overtime.

Rockpool is one of a number of high-profile hospitality businesses to have been caught out by claims of underpaying workers – last year, it was found that staff at George Calombaris‘ restaurants had been underpaid by $2.6 million.

The private equity-owned Rockpool group manages Rockpool Bar & Grill eateries in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as dozens of other venues around the nation, and employs around 2400 staff.

An investigation carried out by Fairfax Media earlier this year found that Rockpool chefs were forced to work “excessive unpaid overtime”, with some putting in 20-30 unpaid hours per week.

The large amounts of unpaid overtime were found to push their wages well below the award, with some earning as little as $15 an hour for the time they worked.

The $1.6 million only covers the financial year 2017-2018.

It is understood that the company is working with PricewaterhouseCoopers to look at “reconciliations” for past years, which could mean additional back pay, although some staff remain cynical.

An anonymous chef told Fairfax that the $1.6 million in back pay was “a good start” but might just be a “marketing strategy” to help the Neil Perry-fronted chain clear its name.

In a statement, the Rockpool group blamed the complexity of managing payroll systems for the underpayment of its staff.

“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,” the statement said.