In previous articles, we’ve discussed and highlighted the critical issue of bullying and harassment in the workplace. Today, we bring you a deeply troubling incident at a renowned fast-food chain, McDonald’s, further emphasizing why we need to tackle workplace bullying on a larger scale.
McDonald’s has been called upon to terminate franchises that are found guilty of not adhering to labour laws. This statement comes from MP Darren Jones, the chair of the Business and Trade Committee, following a series of horrific claims of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying by current and recent UK staff of McDonald’s.
The allegations are considered “some of the most appalling” by Jones, and they have prompted a BBC investigation into the working conditions at McDonald’s.
The corporation has deeply apologized, acknowledging its shortcomings in ensuring the safety of its workers. Despite signing a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to protect staff from sexual harassment earlier this year, the recent revelations depict a different, disturbing reality. More than 100 allegations from McDonald’s workers have surfaced in the past five months, including claims of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and homophobia.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson described the allegations as “deeply concerning”.
Given that McDonald’s employs a franchise system, most workers aren’t directly employed by the company. Instead, individual operators are licensed to run outlets and hire the staff. With over 170,000 people working in 1,450 restaurants, McDonald’s is one of the UK’s largest private-sector employers.
Jones raised concerns over the enforcement of employment laws in these franchises and questioned whether such policies were reflected in its contracts with local restaurants.
McDonald’s spokesperson stated that its franchisees are required to sign an agreement that includes compliance with UK law, and failure to meet these standards can lead to termination of the agreement. The agreement includes People Brand Standards aimed at maintaining a safe, respectful, and inclusive workplace.
However, testimonies from several employees suggest that there’s a disconnect between these policies and their implementation at the ground level. Shelby, who started working at a McDonald’s in Berkshire when she was 16, shared her experience of older male colleagues inappropriately touching young female staff under the guise of navigating the cramped kitchen layout.
Emily, another worker, left her branch in Brighton last year after a male colleague in his 60s repeatedly stroked her hair in a sexually suggestive manner. The distressing experiences narrated by the young workers have shed light on a disconcerting culture of harassment in the workplace.
This incident is a grim reminder of the pervasive issue of workplace bullying and harassment. It stresses the urgent need for proper investigations by employers and employment watchdogs, and for the government to back legislation like the Worker Protection Bill, proposed by Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP. The proposed law would make employers liable for tackling sexual harassment in the workplace.
While McDonald’s has committed to improving the situation by training managers and implementing new protections to create a safer workplace, MP Jones contends that real change will only happen when the company ensures these abuses cannot continue.
The Workers Union Says…
“This incident at McDonald’s serves as yet another stark reminder of the persisting issue of bullying and harassment at workplaces. It’s crucial for companies, big and small, to actively combat these issues and ensure a safe and respectful environment for all their employees”.