McDonald's 'deeply apologises' after investigation reveals claims of sexual assault and harassment

18 July 2023 by
McDonald's 'deeply apologises' after investigation reveals claims of sexual assault and harassment

McDonald's has issued an apology and said it will launch an investigation after the BBC received allegations of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying from more than 100 current and recent UK team members.

The BBC investigation, which began after the fast-food chain signed an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to protect staff from sexual harassment in February, has reported allegations that employees as young as 17 were "groped and harassed almost routinely".

The BBC has said 31 allegations were received related to sexual assault and 78 to sexual harassment. It has also reported 18 allegations of racism and six claims of homophobia.

Responding to the investigation Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald's UK & Ireland, said: "Every one of the 177,000 employees in McDonald's UK deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace. 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 – and we will investigate all allegations brought to us, and all proven breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures we can legally impose, up to and including dismissal.

"In February this year McDonald's UK committed with the EHRC to a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of harassment. This is supported by a company-wide programme of training, the roll-out of new policies and strict reporting processes, all aimed at offering the highest possible level of workplace protection for all our employees.

"Already over 2,000 of our managers have completed full awareness training and nearly all of our restaurant teams are now working within these new protections aimed at creating a safe and respectful workplace."

A spokesperson for the EHRC said: "We are concerned to hear of these new allegations of sexual and racial harassment. We will look at them closely in the context of our current legal agreement with McDonald's to tackle sexual harassment of staff in its restaurants."

McDonald's has made a number of legally binding commitments with the EHRC, including to communicate a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, enhance policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment, improve responses to complaints, and introduce specific training and materials to help managers identify areas of risk within their restaurants and take steps to prevent sexual harassment.

McDonald's partnership with the EHRC came 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 Equality Act 2010, employers are legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by another employee, if the employer has not taken all possible steps to prevent it from happening.

The EHRC has set up a confidential email helpline for those affected and anyone concerned about incidents can report them to

McDonald's has more than 1,270 restaurants in the UK.

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