How BrewDog became a living wage pioneer

BrewDog living wage

The living wage in Scotland has won a huge thumbs-up from Scots, who see it as not only boosting a company’s status but making its products and services more attractive.

Three out of four Scots would think more highly of a company which became accredited for paying the real living wage, according to a Poverty Alliance survey. It also found that four out of ten people north of the border care if products and services they buy are from a Living Wage employer.

Behind the façade of attention-grabbing marketing stunts, BrewDog has been winning plaudits as a trailblazer in the field of fair play.

Fiona Hunter, head of people at BrewDog, said: “Low pay, particularly in the hospitality sector, is something that doesn’t sit well with us. At BrewDog, paying a good wage makes absolute business sense. We cannot expect our employees to come to work and be amazing when they are worried about making ends meet.

“Providing a good standard of living is the right thing to do, and it has the added benefit of helping our employees be as brilliant as possible, which drives the growth of the business. The decision to pay the Living Wage was made as part of a conscious decision to do the right thing for our employees. It was all about better rewarding and engaging our staff.”

Introducing the real living wage and gaining official accreditation for it took around three months, and meant that the company took a close look at its other employee conditions. Its pay structures were revised and simplified to give more pay transparency, as well as uplifts for those in managerial positions. Zero-hour contracts were abolished and a new system of guaranteed hours was introduced.

Guaranteed hours

Fiona added: “Happy, engaged staff need to know how many hours they’ll be working each week. We don’t want our employees to not know how much they might earn from week to week. Management feedback tells us that having a stable team with guaranteed hours for each employee makes sense operationally too. Also, we invest massively in training and developing our staff, and zero-hours contracts diminish the impact of that.”

Two-thirds of BrewDog’s staff were affected by the Living Wage initiative, and the company’s wage bill increase was significant, at £500,000 in the first year. But the results were rapid and extremely positive. There was a 50% increase in staff satisfaction with pay and, a year down the line, a 40% turnover in staff at BrewDog’s retail sites. In one bar, annual staff turnover fell from 240 per cent to 60 per cent.

Chris Queen, general manager of the company’s DogHouse bar in Merchant City, Glasgow, has worked for 20 years in hospitality and is celebrating one year with BrewDog. He sees the benefits of both working for a living wage accredited firm, and running a living wage accredited business within that.

He said: “BrewDog is, hands down, the best employer I’ve worked with. Staff turnover is much lower compared to other hospitality companies. My staff feel valued and they are much more engaged. I think if you treat people with respect you get respect back.”

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