McDonald's pledges to protect staff from sexual harassment in its restaurants

08 February 2023 by
McDonald's pledges to protect staff from sexual harassment in its restaurants

McDonald's has signed a legal agreement with the equality watchdog in response to concerns about the handling of sexual harassment complaints made by staff in its UK restaurants.

The fast food chain said it was partnering with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as staff safety was its "absolute priority".

"Harassment and abuse have no place in our society or at McDonald's," said Alistair Macrow, chief executive officer at McDonald's UK and Ireland.

It comes four years after former McDonald's chief executive Steve Easterbrook was fired when it was discovered he had a relationship with an employee.

In July 2020, McDonald's discovered through an internal investigation that Easterbrook had engaged in other undisclosed, "improper" relationships with McDonald's employees.

Easterbrook, who is British, was fined £300,000 by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January for making "misleading" statements to investors about the reason for his dismissal.

He agreed to pay the penalty without admitting or denying the claims.

Under the EHRC agreement, McDonald's has pledged to take a "zero tolerance" approach to sexual harassment. This will see it deliver anti-harassment training for employees and help managers identify areas of risk within their restaurants.

The chain will also conduct an anonymous survey of staff about workplace safety and encourage franchisees to take a similar approach.

Macrow said: "It is hugely important to me that everyone in our organisation feels safe, respected and included at all times – this is core to the values of our business.

"We already have a strong track record in this area and I now welcome the opportunity to work with the EHRC to further strengthen this."

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by another employee, and the company has not taken all the possible steps to prevent it from happening.

A Worker Protection Bill is currently being considered by Parliament, which could place a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

"We are determined to crack down on workplace cultures of sexual harassment, whether in restaurants or hotels, sports clubs or offices," said Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the EHRC.

"We are pleased that McDonald's has signed this agreement to signal their intent to make their restaurants safe places to work. The improvements they put in place can set an example for others to follow, whether in the hospitality industry or elsewhere."

Last year, the EHRC and UKHospitality produced a checklist and action plan to help restaurants, hotels and pubs to protect their employees, which is available on the trade body's website.

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