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Brewdog founder writes open letter to 'haters' after making it onto the Best Places to Work 2023 list

James Watt, CEO and co-founder of Brewdog, published an open letter to the brewery’s ‘haters’ after the company was named on The Sunday Times Best Places to Work 2023 list. 

The letter, published on LinkedIn, was addressed to "the small group of individuals who seem to have made it their life’s work to take down our company". 

In 2021 a group of former employees under the name Punks with Purpose posted an open letter on Twitter accusing Brewdog and James Watt of fostering a toxic culture that left staff suffering from mental illness.  

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The former employees’ statement said Brewdog’s claims of wanting to be the best employer in the world would be "laughed at" by former staff. 

Following the allegations, the company was investigated in the BBC series Disclosure, broadcast in Scotland in 2022. 

Speaking to HR magazine this year, Brewdog chief people officer Karen Bates shared the policies the company has put in place to take care of the mental health of its staff, including support for those seeking ADHD diagnosis.

In his letter, Watt called allegations levelled at the company "a vicious campaign of lies" and said Brewdog’s listing on the Best Places To Work list is "one of the most important moments" in the brewery’s history.  

Companies pay a fee to enter the Sunday Times Best Places to Work list. Entries consist of a written submission and an employee survey which is analysed by the organisers. 

Mark Price, founder of WorkL, the digital career development tool that helped compile the Sunday Times list, explained the process in further detail. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Once companies enter the awards, their employees have to take a survey.  

“There is a minimum number of employees that have to respond. For a big company, this is 40% of all employees, for a small company the minimum is 60%. 

“This is then reviewed by journalists from the Sunday Times and followed up by them independently.” 

Price said the list provides companies with positive employer branding and helps build reputation. 

He added: “I think the Sunday Times list is the premier place to have your business endorsed. 

"It really supports and helps with retention and recruitment by having something solid for the employer to point to when talking about their employee experience, as well as being a good factor for the business.” 

In total, 100 companies are listed in each category from small to very big organisations. 

Brewdog has 3,000 workers across its offices, breweries and bars putting it in the very big companies category. 

In a LinkedIn post also celebrating the listing, Kat Winstanley, mental health and wellbeing lead at the company, said at least 50% of staff had to respond to the survey for Brewdog to take part. 

The top 10 big organisations on the list for 2023 were Arcadis, CGI, Childbase Partnership, David Lloyd Leisure, Fatface, MBDA, OVO, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, Pandora, PizzaExpress and Veolia. 

XPS Pensions Group made the list in the big companies category, with between 250 and 1,999 employees, and was recognised for its employee training programme and positive working culture. 

Speaking to HR magazine XPS co-CEO Paul Cuff, said: “We are delighted to feature in the Sunday Times Best Places to Work 2023. It is a terrific accolade to get this national recognition for our firm.  

“Our people are our greatest asset and ensuring they enjoy working for XPS and they can thrive here is our number one priority.”