UK: BrewDog boss apologizes to staff for the "lot of pain"

After 60 named and 45 anonymous former employees sent an open letter with massive complaints about grievances within the Scottish cult brewer BrewDog, co-founder and head of the company James Watt apologized publicly and announced reforms in the company.

On Wednesday last week, ex-workers of BrewDog posted on Twitter an “An Open Letter To BrewDog”, saying that a "significant number" of former staff had "suffered mental illness as a result of working at BrewDog". The signatories complain that “the true culture of BrewDog is, and seemingly always has been, fear,” which “left people burnt out, afraid and miserable.“

The authors state that “growth, at all costs, has always been perceived as the number one focus for the company,” and “being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at BrewDog.”

The letter also claims that “lies, hypocrisy and deceit” were used in “PR campaigns repeated over and over on LinkedIn”. The letter states as examples “the stories about sending protest beer to Russia (you didn’t), James and Martin changing their names to Elvis (they didn’t) [, 17.7.2017], awarding an Employee of the Month over a sweary can (which was not an accident and was actually approved for print by James), or offering Pawternity leave (which many staff are simply never permitted to take).”

Another example cited is the claim to save the planet, “an admirable mission, but slightly undermined when you look back over years of vanity projects. Chartering flights across the Atlantic that had to be filled with staff to justify them even going ahead? Brewing an “eco-friendly” saison with glacier water (half of which was dumped down the drain) so the proceeds could go to charity (but only after the donation was slashed because it was too much)? We hope the use of a private jet has come to an end, but it wouldn’t surprise us if it hasn’t.”

After posting a short statement last week, James Watt announced today “The Road Ahead For BrewDog” where the BrewDog’s co-founder apologized and assumed full responsibility for the grievances within the company. “The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault. To all of the signatories and to all of our team and community who were affected by the letter, I am sorry,” he said.

He also said that he was “very close to appointing an independent agency to conduct a review of our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change at all levels of our business.” He acknowledged that “we are too lean in some areas of our business” and that he wants “to put a plan in place to properly resource these areas,” and that a “salary review from January that was postponed as a result of the ongoing impact of Covid lockdown” will be resumed with “changes in place for the 1st July.”

The further list of actions include an action plan following an anonymous Times Top 100 survey, international team benefits, exit interviews with all leavers from the last 12 months, formation of an employee representative group, and a career development & training.

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