BrewDog drops commitment to Real Living Wage as it looks to cut costs

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

BrewDog drops commitment to Real Living Wage as it looks to cut costs

Related tags Brewdog National living wage Real living wage Cost of living

BrewDog has dropped its commitment to the Real Living Wage as it looks to cut costs amid ongoing losses.

The brewer and bar group, which operates more than 70 sites across the UK, has told staff it will begin using the Government-mandated National Living Wage (NLW) to set pay for its bar crews, rather than the voluntary Real Living Wage, which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

As a result, all new employees from this month will be hired on the current NLW of £10.42, rising to £11.44 in April in line with the increases announced by the Government in November last year​.

Hourly pay for current London staff will be frozen at its current rate of £11.95, while those outside of London will see their pay increase from £10.90 to £11.44 in April.

Had BrewDog remained committed to the Real Living Wage, it would have been required to raise its staff’s hourly wage to £13.15 in London and £12 outside of London from April.

BrewDog set out the changes in a letter sent to employees and subsequently published on X (formerly Twitter) by Unite Hospitality​.

The letter noted that while the group’s bars ’traded well’ over December, the wider BrewDog business still made a ’trading loss’ in 2023.

“Despite many efforts in the past 12 months to reduce our spending, we still need to find more ways to get this business back to profitability and the financial stability that is needed,” the letter continued.

“Inevitably, this does mean making some hard decisions.”

Bryan Simpson, lead organiser for Unite Hospitality across Britain and Ireland, described BrewDog’s decision to withdraw from the Real Living Wage scheme as ‘outrageous’.

He told The Guardian​: “BrewDog has been paying the real living wage since 2015. To withdraw it now, during the most acute cost of living crisis in a generation is outrageous.

“We are already working with our BrewDog members across the country to collectively challenge this awful decision and force the senior management of the company to do the right thing by the workers who have made them millions.”

Responding to Unite Hospitality on X​, BrewDog chief executive and co-founder James Watt defended the move.

“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,” he said.

“We have always been fully committed to doing the best we can for our people, 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.”

Watt also noted that BrewDog was recognised in the Sunday Times​’ Best Places to Work list last year, and was named a Top UK Employer by the UK Top Employers Institute.

The Real Living Wage, which is calculated based on the cost of living, is voluntarily paid by more than 14,000 UK businesses.

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