BrewDog has been a real living wage employer since 2015

BrewDog’s founder and CEO James Watt has said “unprecedented challenges in the hospitality sector” mean the organisation can no longer justify paying new hires in its bar division the real living wage.

Writing on X, Watt said that despite changing its policy of offering the real living wage, its staff outside London would be getting a 4.95% increase in base pay, whilst its London bar employees would be paid “4.5% above the national living wage”.

“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,” Watt said. “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 leapt to the defence of his company’s new policy on Wednesday, after Unite Hospitality published a copy of a letter BrewDog had sent to its bar staff informing them of the change.

The letter said BrewDog had made a trading loss in 2023. This, it added, meant it needed to take “some hard decisions” to get back to profitability and “financial stability”.

From 3 January this year, new staff at BrewDog’s bars would be hired on the government’s national living wage of £10.42 an hour, the Punk IPA brewer said.

This would rise to £11.44 per hour in April, in line with the government increasing the national living wage by 9.8%, it added.

In April, BrewDog’s London staff, meanwhile, would see their wages stay at £11.95 per hour.

The real living wage, which BrewDog had previously offered to all its bar staff, is due to increase to £12 per hour (and £13.15 per hour in London) in April.

Unite Hospitality’s lead organiser Bryan Simpson said: “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.”

Living Wage Foundation director Katherine Chapman added: ”“We are disappointed to hear that Brewdog has chosen to stop paying the real living wage. The independently calculated real living wage is the only UK wage rate based on the cost of living and it is voluntarily paid by over 14,000 organisations.

”Despite tough economic times, it’s been heartening to see record numbers of businesses join the movement. Since September 2022 alone, we have seen over 3,000 new employers accredit with the Living Wage Foundation. 

The Grocer understands the change in policy only applies to BrewDog staff paid hourly in its bars, and not to those in other areas of the business.