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EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure GB-2020-9/1523 – measures in United Kingdom

Brewdog: Protecting staff, business and community

Brewdog: Protecting staff, business and community

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 25 February 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Reorientation of business activities
– Change of production/innovation
Author Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound
Measure added 01 December 2020 (updated 04 February 2021)

Background information

Founded in 2007, BrewDog is a multinational brewery, distillery and pub chain based in Ellon, Scotland. The company employs about 2,000 people across its various restaurants, bars, pubs, breweries and support centres around the world. Following the UK lockdown at the end of March, the company closed its bars. Up until this point, 70% of the company's business revenue was derived from its bars. Thus, as will be described, the business has undergone a fairly radical transformation as a result of the pandemic, focusing on online and supermarket sales and switching distillery production.

Content of measure

From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety of staff was a priority and BrewDog quickly closed restaurants and pubs to the public so as to protect staff. At first, it offered an online ordering service. This featured a “Hop Drop” click-and-collect service, home delivery, and a minimal contact DriveThru service, which meant that customers could drive to their nearest BrewDog bar, and staff would bring their order to their car on arrival. However, this shut down shortly after as staff were still concerned they could be at risk. The firm then focused on supplying supermarkets and food retailers with beer for personal consumption, even creating a new beer called Lockdown Lager in homage to the government’s social distancing mandate.

With around 70% of (non-production) staff on furlough during the first and second lockdowns, the company's two directors have foregone their salary for 2020, and other senior team members have also taken considerable pay cuts, with the COO and board members each agreeing to take a 50% pay cut so as to ensure there is money within the business to support as many jobs as possible.

A number of furloughed staff asked to come back to work in the firm’s still operational distilleries. For those who remained on furlough, BrewDog worked diligently to keep open lines of communication with all furloughed staff, including blog posts, weekly updates on the business, pub quizzes and even sending a crate of beer to staff who can no longer work. Social distancing was introduced into the factories, with crates placed at every stage of the production line so staff can keep a safe distance from one another. One of the company's founders even shared a tutorial on how the firm has made face visors for its production staff.

For those who remained on furlough, BrewDog has worked diligently to keep open lines of communication with all furloughed staff, including blog posts, weekly updates on the business, pub quizzes and even sending a crate of beer to staff who can no longer work.

During full bar closure, the company also focused on supporting its community and customer base, aiming to ensure that there is still a sense of connection. It launched the BrewDog Open Arms; an online virtual pub which allows its customers to come together and enjoy a beer together. The virtual bar opened for the first time on Friday, 27 March, and featured a pub quiz, guided beer tastings, and live music. Held over Zoom, it attracted more than 1,000 participants, the maximum number permitted by the online meetings platform.In another move to support the community, the company has also used its vans to deliver meals (and sanitiser - see below) locally.

The scarcity of hand sanitiser in the region around its headquarters in Ellon, near Aberdeen in Scotland, led BrewDog to dedicate its distillery to producing this important tool in the fight to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The first batch was distributed within a few days, free of charge, to healthcare services, charities, and other frontline workers. The transition did come with challenges. Given the sudden demand generated by the pandemic, the pump bottles normally used to dispense hand sanitiser could not be sourced immediately, so the team solved this packaging dilemma by using containers they already had on the premises. The first batches of sanitiser were delivered in beer bottles.

The pump dispenser bottles eventually arrived, and the distillery began running 24 hours a day. It developed the capacity to produce up to 12 hectolitres per day, the equivalent of 12,000 100ml bottles of hand sanitiser. By 28 April, the number of units donated had reached more than 250,000.

The gel made in the initial phase of production contained 69% alcohol, above the 60% minimum recommended by the UK Health and Safety Executive and in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines. In the subsequent phases, learning has prompted adjustments and improvements. In response to feedback from local hospitals that the alcohol content required for sanitiser used in clinical care is higher than that used by individuals, BrewDog worked with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to meet that specification. On 3 April, less than two weeks after the first batch was produced, the company received approval and an order for the new version of the sanitiser, which has an 80% alcohol content. Brewdog is now officially supplying NHS Grampian with hospital grade Hand Sanitiser.

Use of measure

As stated previously, the firm's employees are covered by the measures but the company has also aimed to create an online bar for customers (1,000 attended the first Zoom meeting at the end of March) and has also helped in the community, delivering meals and hand sanitiser.

Contents

  • Employment retention
  • Health and safety
  • Pay freezes or cuts
  • Solidarity
  • Work organisation

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
The COVID-19 risk group at the workplace
Workers in essential services
Does not apply to businesses Other groups of citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies
Companies
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Company level

Involvement

This is a company initiative and thus, there was no social partner involvement in the design, implementation or monitoring of the measures taken.

Views and reactions

The measures include taking care of staff, the wider community as well as support for the NHS (free sanitiser was initially provided). As the firm has been innovative and implemented good practices, it can be assume that reactions would be positive although none are recorded.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      I - Accommodation And Food Service Activities I56 Food and beverage service activities

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Brewdog: Protecting staff, business and community, measure GB-2020-9/1523 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/GB-2020-9_1523.html

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