George Calombaris has admitted to underpaying 515 employees, both current and former, a total of $7.83 million in wages.

As part of an agreement struck with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the celebrity chef has been ordered to pay $200,000 as a “contrition payment”. He is also required to make public statements to promote compliance with the Fair Work Act.

“We apologise to all our affected team members, past and present – as it is our people that make our restaurants great, and it is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles,” Calombaris said in a statement, issued on Thursday morning, adding that he is now “committed to acting as a force for change in the industry and leading by example”.

Staff from Calombaris’ company Made Establishment first complained to Fair Work in 2015, but the MasterChef judge and his former business partner, Greek Australian George Sykiotis claimed that matters had been resolved.

Then in 2017 the company self-reported to Fair Work, announcing publicly that they had underpaid 162 works the sum of $2.6 million, blaming the discrepancies on “historically poor processes”.

However an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman over the duration of four years revealed the situation was more dire than initially expected, revealing a number of breaches. These included failing to pay minimum award rates, as well as penalties and overtime, casual and annual leave loading, as well as split-shift allowances. Meanwhile the company was also not keeping records of the hours worked by staff on salaries, resulting in workers being denied accrued overtime and penalty rates, reported The Age.

As part of the agreement with Fair Work, Calombaris will also need to implement new payroll and compliance systems across his restaurant empire, and each of the venues will be independently audited for three years. Meanwhile all Made Establishment staff working in human resources, payroll and on-site management will be required to undertake workplace relations training.

Calombaris is expected to address staff today, Thursday 18 July, to explain matters.

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