Wild Card Brewery sees the value in going beyond the minimum

Walthamstow-based micro-brewery and bar Wild Card Brewery decided to pay its staff the London living wage, as determined by the Living Wage Foundation, when the business was first set up in 2012. Andrew Birkby, one of the firm’s founders, says: “The national living wage that employers are now required to pay is below the level that the Living Wage Foundation recommends, and which we pay.”

The London living wage is a voluntary rate, which is calculated according to the basic cost of living. It increased from £9.40 an hour to £9.75 an hour in October 2016, with living wage employers expected to implement the new rate by May 2017. The national living wage, which is the statutory minimum for employees aged 25 and over, is set to rise from £7.20 to £7.50 an hour in April 2017.

“We do it [because it] makes commercial sense,” Birkby adds. “We think by paying our employees better than the national living wage we get more out of them in terms of productivity, staff retention and how they represent the brand. The hospitality sector has a really high turnover of staff but a lot of ours have been with us from the beginning. That saves money in terms of training too.”

As a small employer, with a 15-strong team of bar staff, brewers and drivers, paying the London living wage is its main tool in attracting and retaining staff, and one Birkby believes reflects what is important to employees. “What really matters is pounds in their pocket, because they have to put food on the table and look after their families,” he explains.

The investment seems to be paying off; the brewery picked up the Time Out award for the best bar in its borough in November 2016. “We had a very high rating on Google and Facebook and one of the recurring pieces of feedback is that staff are really friendly and helpful,” says Birkby. “It’s one of the things that leads people to give us a good review and keep coming back.”

Wild Card Brewery intends to keep pace with any future increases in the London living wage. “It’s a stretch but what we get back from our staff makes it well worth the money,” says Birkby.