The head of McDonald’s in the UK informed members of Parliament that there have been numerous instances of sexual harassment and bullying towards employees at their fast food establishments, which they deem to be “extremely appalling”. The company has been receiving an average of one to two complaints per week regarding sexual harassment.
The fast food chain McDonald’s is facing significant pressure to address issues of sexual harassment, assault, racism, and bullying in the workplace. This follows an investigation by the BBC that included interviews with over 100 employees, many of whom were under the age of 25. McDonald’s currently has 1,450 locations and employs approximately 180,000 individuals in the UK.
Alistair Macrow, the CEO of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, testified before the business and trade committee in Parliament, stating that the incidents were extremely disturbing. He emphasized that the company will take action to address and eliminate such occurrences, as nothing is more crucial.
According to his statement, McDonald’s has received a total of 407 complaints of various natures since July. Out of these, 157 have been thoroughly looked into and 75 have resulted in disciplinary measures, including 18 terminations. Among the complaints, there have been 17 confirmed incidents of sexual harassment, 27 under investigation, nine cases of bullying, and one related to racism. He mentioned that some complaints have been reported to the authorities by individuals, but he was not aware of the exact number.
Macrow told MPs: “To give you a picture of what we see on an ongoing basis, we typically would see between 20 and 25 contacts per week, of which one or two would be [about] sexual harassment. And about five would be bullying.”
He stated that there is no specific area of concern in the UK. He also mentioned, “These instances are spread out throughout our entire company, including our owned restaurants.”
McDonald’s operates on a franchise model where individual owners manage the outlets and hire the employees. Approximately 90% of the branches are managed by franchisees. According to Macrow, no franchisees have had their contracts terminated due to the sexual harassment cases.
In response to the allegations that came to light, Macrow established an investigations unit in late July. The unit was tasked with referring the most severe cases to a team of legal experts from a third-party, who specialize in conducting investigations.
According to Macrow, the statements given by McDonald’s employees, which were shared during the committee meeting, were “extremely disturbing” and “difficult to hear”. He also mentioned that some of the grievances date back to the 1980s.
The leader of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union reported that employees at McDonald’s have filed grievances in all of their locations throughout London.
Earlier on Tuesday, during his address to the committee, Ian Hodson, the national leader of the union, stated that the union had received 1,000 grievances. He shared that these complaints involved incidents of unwanted touching, inappropriate language, and mistreatment. Hodson noted that these occurrences were widespread and considered acceptable, which is concerning.
He expressed that some of the tales were “extremely terrible”. He also stated that it is unacceptable for such incidents to occur in the UK in the 21st century. Despite being a large international company and a major employer, they have failed to ensure the safety of their employees. This is deplorable and they should be setting a better example for others to follow. However, this is not the case.
On Thursday of last week, the law firm Leigh Day initiated a lawsuit against McDonald’s on behalf of a collective of employees from the restaurant chain.