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Brewdog scraps real living wage commitment

Brewdog has removed all references to the real living wage from its website

Brewdog has announced it will stop paying the real living wage to new employees.

In a letter to staff, posted by union Unite Hospitality on X, Brewdog said new bar staff will be hired on the government’s national living wage (£10.42 an hour).

This breaks with Brewdog’s commitment to pay all workers the voluntary real living wage (£12 an hour). 

Outside London, wages will be frozen until the minimum wage rises on 1 April.

The minimum wage rises to £11.44 an hour from 1 April. However, that will still be below the real living wage.

For workers in London, pay will be frozen at the current £11.95 an hour, well below the £13.15 London real living wage.

Read more: More than 200 employers named and shamed for failing to pay National Minimum Wage

The letter said the changes were necessary to reach profitability: “Even with strong performance over Christmas, as a wider business there is no hiding from the fact that in 2023, we made a trading loss, and 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 brewery has been subject to controversy around its treatment of staff before.

In 2021, 61 former employees, under the name ‘Punks with Purpose’, posted an open letter on X accusing Brewdog and its cofounder James Watt of fostering a toxic culture that left staff suffering from mental illness.  

Commenting on Brewdog’s decision to abandon the real living wage, Punks with Purpose posted on X: “Brewdog management’s decision to revoke a long-standing commitment to the real @LivingWageUK proves that there is no principle too dearly held for them to abandon. The real living wage has been a cornerstone of Brewdog’s public identity for years.” 

All references to the real living wage have been removed from Brewdog’s website. 

A Brewdog spokesperson told HR magazine: “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. 

“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. 

“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.”