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BrewDog backtracks on real living wage commitment

A letter sent to BrewDog bar workers has revealed that both current and future employees will be paid below the real living wage, despite the company previously advocating for it.

Hospitality workers union Unite Hospitality shared a screenshot of a letter sent by BrewDog management to ‘Bar Crew’ which detailed how wages would be changing:

BrewDog has previously been a vocal supporter of the Living Wage Foundation’s push to pay workers the ‘real’ living wage, the wage rate that factors in the cost of living. In October 2014 BrewDog became a Living Wage Employer, and has been frequently cited in case studies from the Living Wage Foundation on the benefits of paying above the government-mandated rate.

The letter sent to employees states that while BrewDog bars had seen a “strong performance over Christmas”, in 2023 the wider business made a “trading loss”, forcing “hard decisions” to be made in order to get the company back to profitability.

One of these decisions concerns how much workers at BrewDog’s UK bars will be paid per hour: “From 3 January this year, new members of staff will be hired on the UK Government’s National Living Wage which currently stands at £10.42 an hour. All current staff rates will remain unchanged, and this has no impact on staff currently employed with us. The UK Government recently announced an increase to the National Living Wage from April 2024. It will rise 9.8% to £11.44 per hour nationally. From 1 April 2024, we will be using the new National Living Wage which will rise by nearly 10% as the benchmark to set pay in the UK for hourly paid crew in our bars.”

The letter then clarifies that from 1 April, those working outside of London will see pay increase from £10.90 to £11.44 per hour, while those working in London will “see no impact” on their pay, “which will remain at £11.95 per hour which is 4.5% above the national living wage”. Those employed from 1 April onwards will be paid £11.44 per hour.

The wages revealed in the letter do fall short of the Living Wage Foundation‘s estimates of what the ‘real’ living wage should be, which currently stand at £13.15 per hour in London and £12 for the rest of the UK.

This has prompted outcry from Unite Hospitality and also Punks With Purpose, a group of former BrewDog employees that has been highly critical of the company’s alleged “toxic workplace culture”, who posted on X: “Staying committed to the real Living Wage was one of the cornerstones of BrewDog’s identity. Another principle cast aside, along with the hugely publicised 50/50 bar profit share scheme.”

BrewDog responds

In response, the drinks business was sent the following from a BrewDog spokesperson: “As a result of the changes we’re making – and despite unprecedented challenges in the hospitality sector – our staff outside London will be getting a 4.95% increase in base pay, and crew currently working in London will be paid 4.5% above the National Living Wage.”

Both increases cited by the spokesperson are identical to those mentioned in the letter.

“We have always been fully committed to doing the best we can for our people,” they continued, “and our benefits package is far more generous than the industry average. Last year we gave over £350,000 to our bars team via our unique profit share programme. Our team also benefits from a unique bonus scheme which sees all crew members receive an additional £1 an hour for the month for surpassing customer service standards. In addition, we offer signature benefits like ‘pawternity’ leave and paid sabbaticals after five years of service.”

“We are proud to be one of the Sunday Times Best Places to Work, and we were named a Top UK Employer by the UK Top Employers Institute,” the statement concluded.

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