McDonald's UK boss summoned to parliament over toxic culture claims

09 November 2023 by
McDonald's UK boss summoned to parliament over toxic culture claims

The UK boss of McDonald's has been summoned to take questions from MPs amid a growing scandal over complaints of a toxic culture at the restaurant chain.

Alistair Macrow will appear in front of the Business and Trade Committee on 14 November.

It comes after the BBC said more than 160 people had approached it with allegations of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying at McDonald's after it published an initial investigation in July.

Since the probe was made public, law firm Leigh Day has begun working on a group legal action against McDonald's, which is one of the UK's largest private sector employers with more than 170,000 staff working across 1,450 restaurants.

One of the law firm's clients claimed she had witnessed older male colleagues making bets on who could sleep with new starters, been physically touched by a manager, and heard crew members make comments about her body.

Allegations of sexual harassment at McDonald's first surfaced in the UK five years ago when the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) said it received 1,000 complaints from crew members.

Leigh Day said McDonald's staff aged under 20 could be entitled to compensation even if they had not experienced harassment because they could have been exposed to unsafe work practices.

"It is clear that the McDonald's empire relies upon a young and inexperienced workforce, and it is vital that they have a safe place of work," said Kiran Daurka, a partner in the Leigh Day employment team.

"Some of the stories reported by the BBC and some of the stories that we have been told directly of sexual abuse and harassment are disturbing."

The Business and Trade Committee will also hear from trade unions and McDonald's workers and franchisees about the company culture.

When allegations put to the BBC were made public this summer, Macrow said he found the reports "personally and professionally shocking".

In February, McDonald's signed a legal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to take a "zero tolerance" approach to harassment.

"I am completely determined to root out any behaviour that falls below the high standards of respect, safety and inclusion we demand of everyone at McDonald's," said Macrow.

He said McDonald's was investigating every allegation brought to its attention and had reviewed its code of conduct, complaints processes and disciplinary hearings.

McDonald's has also appointed external experts at PwC to review its employment practices.

"While we are confident in the first steps we have taken, I am determined to understand what more we can do, and our efforts will need to be far reaching and constantly evolving," said Macrow.

"We know, however, that new processes will take time to embed fully in each of our 1,500 restaurants across the UK and Ireland.

"I am personally committed to ensuring all cases brought to our attention are investigated quickly and thoroughly. Where our standards have been breached, or where our processes fall short, I will drive change.

"I know it takes a great deal of personal courage to speak up and it is my top priority to ensure we act swiftly and decisively on what we hear."

Image: A G Baxter / Shutterstock

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking