A Melbourne fruit and vegetable retailer has agreed to back-pay almost half a million dollar to 256 current and former staff.

This comes after the Fair Work Ombudsman found the workers were underpaid more than $464,000 over two years.

The underpaid employees worked at stores in Doncaster, Malvern, Chadstone, Eastland and Forest Hill under the trading name Colonial Fruit Co. and Colonial Fresh Markets.

Fair Work Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said the largest individual underpayment is $12,697.

“Underpaid superannuation, payroll tax and workers’ compensation payments take the total amount owed by the employer to more than $544,200,” he said.

The operator of the stores, CFC Retail, has entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman – a tool the regulator is now using as an alternative to litigation – which provides for all underpaid workers to be fully reimbursed.

The workers were underpaid between July 2007 and June 2009 after a collective agreement drawn up by CFC was neither lodged with nor approved by the former Workplace Authority.

In a letter of apology to staff, CFC directors have expressed their “sincere regret” at the breach of workplace law and given a commitment that such conduct will not occur again.