A restaurant worker who was paid less than minimum wage will miss out on most of the $32,000 owed to him after his former employers went into liquidation.

Gagandeep Singh was underpaid while working at Masala Indian Restaurant at Bucklands Beach and Mission Bay.

Labour inspector Tasneem Begum claimed Mr Singh was owed $32,264 in unpaid wages, holiday pay, and public holiday payments.

Mr Singh had worked at the restaurants between June 2013 and May 2013, spending two weeks at Bucklands Beach before moving to the Mission Bay restaurant. At the time he did not have a work permit and was not permitted to work in New Zealand.

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The companies, both represented by Joti Jain, denied he had worked at either restaurant.

However, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said it was satisfied with the evidence put forward by the labour inspector that Mr Singh did work and was owed wages.

Goldlink Enterprises Ltd, trading as Masala Mission Bay, went into liquidation on March 10, the day before an investigation meeting was to have taken place.

Liquidators did not consent to action before the ERA continuing against the liquidated company.

CHK Hospitality Limited, trading as Masala Bucklands Beach, went into liquidation on September 2, 2013.

Mr Singh said he had not been paid for his work at Bucklands Beach at all.

CHK Hospitality Limited was ordered to pay $2160 for unpaid wages and holiday pay, plus interested calculated at 5 per cent per annum from June 2012.

"The failure to pay minimum wage to an employee is inexcusable," authority member Vicki Campbell said.

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"Workers like Mr Singh are vulnerable to exploitation due to the conflict that would necessarily arise for them if they complain that they are not receiving minimum standards."

The company was also ordered to pay a penalty of $10,000, with $5000 to be paid to Mr Singh.