McDonald’s has apologised after more than 100 current and recent UK restaurant staff alleged sexual harassment was rife at some outlets and said they regularly faced mistreatment.
The publication of a BBC investigation on Tuesday caused a storm in Westminster. The chair of the business and trade committee, Darren Jones, said the claims were “some of the most appalling” he had heard, while a spokesperson for the prime minister said the allegations were “deeply concerning”.
One former McDonald’s staff member who was based in Edinburgh alleged: “Being shouted at, intimidated or sexually harassed was common.” They said one member of staff “was particularly aggressive and at one point threatened a group of girls working in the store, including me, with slitting our throats”.
“Management were aware of the threats but because he was good at his job and ‘one of the lads’ they let it slide and nothing was ever done about it,” the former employee told the BBC. “It wasn’t unusual as well to walk through the kitchen and have your bum slapped or something too.”
Shelby, who worked at a restaurant in Berkshire, was quoted as saying: “They’d grope stomach, waists, bums. Every shift I worked, there would be at least a comment being made, or I’d be brushed, a hand brushed across me, or it would be a more severe thing like having my bum grabbed, hips grabbed.”
McDonald’s is one of the largest private sector employers and has one of the youngest workforces. It has more than 170,000 mostly indirectly employed staff, who are often on zero-hours contracts, across almost 1,500 restaurants.
“You would get the more popular and longer-term staff bullying you and making fun of you for not being good at something you’ve only been doing for an hour,” a 21-year-old man from Wigan, who also did not wish to be named, said of his time working for McDonald’s between 2017 and 2018. “The work environment was just not nice to be in and gave me a lot of anxiety, which is still with me and carried over to me trying to get work now.”
The BBC reported a slew of further allegations. A senior manager was claimed to have choked a 17-year-old worker in Plymouth and grabbed her bottom. Managers across a number of outlets attempted to pressure younger staff into sex, it was also alleged.
Others were allegedly subject to racist slurs. Male staff in Wales apparently joked about betting on who could sleep with new female recruits first. A 19-year-old quit after a male colleague was filmed slapping her on the bottom, causing a bruise, but kept his job, the BBC reported.
Caroline Nokes, the Tory chair of the women and equalities select committee, said: “Like so many cases, this isn’t just about sex, it’s about power. It’s about older managers exploiting what is, at McDonald’s, a very young workforce.”
Labour’s Jones said McDonald’s should terminate deals with any franchisees that were “not following labour law”.
The McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive, Alistair Macrow, said in a statement posted on Twitter: “There are clearly instances where we have fallen short and for that we deeply apologise. There is simply no place for harassment, abuse or discrimination of any kind at McDonald’s.”
The former US chief executive Steve Easterbrook was fired in 2019 over a secret relationship with a senior female employee that a report said showed “poor judgment” and “violated company policy”. He left with more than $40m in a “separation agreement”.
Source : The Guardian