THE chief executive of BrewDog has issued a statement amid a backlash against plans to stop paying the Real Living Wage to new employees.

James Watt said it had been an “incredibly tough week” after reports broke that he had enjoyed a luxury holiday in the Maldives the month before announcing the wage changes.

And on Sunday, Unite Hospitality, which represents BrewDog workers, said it was considering a legal challenge against the firm as it believed the wage announcements may have been illegal.

Watt put out a lengthy comment on social media addressing the “media storm,” which he said had presented BrewDog as paying “our fantastic people in the most miserly of ways”.

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He went on: “I wanted to share some facts about how we actually pay our bar teams.

  • In 2023 we gave a huge 80.3% of our bar profits to our bar teams. This profit share remains in place moving forward.
  • Not a single person in our business has had a pay cut as was widely and falsely reported.
  • Since 2022 our nationwide bar team’s wages will have increased by 20.4% by April.
  • In London our entry level position has a starting package of £26,000+ Our starting packages remain better than those of 90% of our competitors.
  • In 2022 I announced that I would give 20% of my own equity in BrewDog to our people. For free. This includes 250 members of our bar teams.

“Business is incredibly hard, especially when the UK economy is in such poor health, and sometimes you have to make incredibly difficult decisions.

“The controversy last week was because we have only increased our national bar team wages 20.4% since March 2022 and not the 26% that would have been required to retain a Real Living Wage status.

“I would love nothing more than to give everyone in our business a further huge pay increase, but we simply have to balance our books, offer fair value to our customers and ensure the long-term viability of our business. And ultimately, protect jobs.

“More bars and restaurants closed in 2023 than any other year on record – hospitality is in crisis. Just yesterday The Independent ran a huge article entitled ‘Thousands of bars and restaurants being forced to close in the UK’ which will result in thousands of job losses.

“We are working as hard as we can to protect jobs and keep all of our bars open whilst offering market leading packages to our people. Yet we have been subject to ridiculous levels of criticism.

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“However, we simply must push on from here, more resolute than ever to build the best business we can for our fantastic team and our brilliant community.”

On Sunday, The National reported that trade union Unite could argue that the firm’s former status as a Real Living Wage employer formed part of workers’ implied terms of employment, meaning they would have reasonably expected their wages to continue to be pegged to that metric instead of the legal minimum wage.

Unite Hospitality’s lead organiser Bryan Simpson said the union would do “everything we can” to challenge the decision.

He said: “For BrewDog to be effectively getting rid of the Real Living Wage during one of the most acute cost-of-living crises that we’ve seen in a generation is not just morally repugnant, it’s potentially unlawful and a breach of contract.”