By David Bates

If you’re a fan of reality TV, chances are you’re familiar with George Calombaris from the hit show Masterchef. He cooks up lots of incredible dishes, the latest of which is a rich serving of humble pie.

You see, Mr Calombaris is the latest Australian employer to discover our nation’s ridiculously complex employment laws make it virtually impossible to pay employees correctly.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has this week confirmed Mr Calombaris underpaid his restaurant employees. By $2.6 million. The average underpayment was approximately $16,000 per employee. According to the FWO, poor business practices were to blame, and Mr Calombaris didn’t mean to underpay his staff.

That’s not very reassuring, is it? I mean, if one of the nation’s most well-respected employers – who presumably has a wealth of accounting and HR professionals at his disposal – can’t get it right, what hope is there for the rest of the country’s employers?

But, of course, Mr Calombaris isn’t the first employer to learn the hard way that you basically need to have a Masters in Employment Law to comprehend – and comply with – Australia’s ludicrous system of Modern Awards.

Take employers at 7-11 for example. According to the official wage underpayment website set up by the company, they have so far processed over 2,200 claims from current and former employees, and the total dollar value of these claims now exceeds $85,000,000.

Yes, 85. Million. Dollars.

Many of these employers thought they were paying their staff correctly under the General Retail Industry Award 2010, only to discover (much to their surprise) that their employees are actually covered by the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services, and Retail Award 2010. (No, not complex at all, right?).

And don’t forget the wage underpayment scandals now engulfing Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, and a number of other franchises. 

Luckily for all of us employers, there’s a Commonwealth Government Agency responsible for making sure we all understand the law and are able to fully comply with all our obligations. It’s called the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

Yep, that’s right, them. Good luck.