J&A Mitchell and Co Ltd isn’t your typical whisky company. At least not in this day and age. It is the last remaining distillery in Scotland to carry out 100% of the entire production process on one site- doing so using people and traditional techniques, rather than computers and modern technology. Springbank Distillery, the best known of the group’s companies, prides itself on employing as many people as possible, despite producing relatively small quantities of whisky in comparison to some of the industry behemoths. As a company which has been in the ownership of the same family since 1828, such a hands-on approach comes naturally to Chairman Hedley Wright and the company’s directors and management team.
As the first whisky distillery in the UK to become accredited as a Living Wage Employer, we were interested to learn more about J&A Mitchell’s decision to become accredited and find out what impact receiving the Living Wage is having on staff, so we spoke to Linda McAulay, Human Resources Manager, and to Lauren Anderson, Bottling Hall Assistant.
Linda has worked for J&A Mitchell for 22 years, starting her career there as an Office Administrator and then Production Office Manager, until taking on the human resources role over 3 years ago. Linda’s role involves working with all staff across the organisation and supporting employee development.
“Our employees are extremely important to us and we appreciate how hard they work. Mr Wright, our Chairman, has always tried to give above inflation annual pay rises and this accreditation confirms his commitment to our employees.
“We first heard about the Living Wage through the national press. It caught our attention immediately as something we should consider. I viewed the website and then contacted the Living Wage Foundation to find out more about how we could become part of this.
“The process of becoming accredited was extremely straightforward. After contacting the Living Wage Foundation I was contacted directly by a member of the Scottish branch. We worked through some questions regarding our employees and our commitment to apply the Living Wage and accreditation was decided and confirmed within a fairly short period of time.
“Maintaining a good relationship with all our employees is important to us. Our objective is to be able to offer interesting and fulfilling work as a company with a traditional history, and products we are proud of. It’s important that our employees are engaged in their work and being productive, as this ensures we can keep building for the future.
“In our business environment it makes sense to take this step, as we have a reputation as a good employer and we know that our customers will be pleased to hear we are now a Living Wage Employer.
“On implementing the Living Wage, the employees that were affected by increased pay were very pleased. We are hopeful this will continue as the contribution from all our employees is important and we are looking at the long term benefits for them as well as for our organisation”.
Because J&A Mitchell and Co. Ltd use traditional production methods, their whisky is the most handmade in Scotland. 100% of the process is carried out on site. We spoke with Lauren, who works for J&A Mitchell as a Bottling Hall Assistant.
Lauren lives with her dad and younger sister, who is still at school. Lauren is the only person in her household who is working and says “Working full-time and taking care of the bills and food shopping means that there often isn’t much left over for anything else. The difference the Living Wage is making to me is that I now have a little bit extra to go out with friends, instead of missing out on social events”. Lauren says she really enjoys being able to spend time with her friends and feels it gives her an energy boost.
Lauren initially started with J&A Mitchell as a Packing Assistant, but after 2 weeks, she was given the opportunity to go on the line in the Bottling Hall to see how she would get on. 18 months later, she says she enjoys her role as Bottling Hall Assistant and hopes to have other opportunities for promotion at J&A Mitchell in the future.