On Sunday, Rockpool Dining Group (RDG), the hospitality company with chef Neil Perry at its helm, became the latest big player in the Australian dining industry to face allegations of underpaying its staff.

A Fairfax Media investigation led by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age alleges chefs at the group’s Saké and Munich Brauhaus restaurants were underpaid for work of up to 70 hours per week.

It has not been specified which of the five Saké restaurants or three Munich Brauhaus restaurants are involved.

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A statement on the RDG website from chief executive officer Thomas Pash says, “We strenuously refute allegations about Rockpool Dining Group’s payment practices.”

“Current media reports are based on questionable documents we were neither permitted to review nor validate.”

The Fairfax investigation is based on a series of documents including payslips, hourly records and internal management documents Fairfax Media says it was provided by workers, as well as reports from unnamed sources.

The article alleges some chefs are working between 15 to 30 hours of unpaid overtime on top of their 38 hour per week salary, meaning some would see their hourly wage drop to about $15 per hour. The investigations suggest some workers could be earning as little as half of what they are owed under the Restaurant Industry Award.

“Our payroll and time and attendance systems register 38 hours per week as per our staff employment agreements,” said Pash. “It also registers actual hours worked so we can reasonably monitor hours, manage rosters, assign days off in lieu and pay overtime, which is paid in line with annualized award rates.”

It’s alleged pressure was placed on migrant workers, who were reportedly afraid that permanent residency applications could be put at risk if they spoke up.

“We have an open-door policy at Rockpool Dining Group and will continue to assist individuals who believe they have worked too many hours or who we flag as having to cut back on their hours,” Pash said.

"It’s a sad day when a few people try to undermine the amazing work of so many who contribute to making our restaurants great," Perry said in a statement on the website. "Especially when we operate fully within the employment laws of this country.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating the allegations, Business Insider reports.

Other businesses owned by RDG include Rosetta Ristorante, Burger Project, Spice Temple, The Bavarian Beerhaüs and Rockpool Bar & Grill. Perry opened his first Rockpool restaurant in Sydney in 1989. UPG bought Perry's restaurant empire in 2016, with Perry named as the group's new culinary head. He also retained equity.

RDG isn’t the first big player in the hospitality industry to face accusations of underpaying staff. In April last year George Calombaris’s Made Establishment admitted to underpaying more than 160 staff members a total of $2.6 million, citing an administrative error for the underpayment. Workers claimed they were owed hundreds of thousands in unpaid wages from Doughnut Time before the company went into liquidation earlier this year.

In Victoria, the Daniel Andrews-led state government has committed to criminalising wage theft should it be re-elected in November’s state elections.