Calls have been made for McDonald’s to sever franchise agreements with branches that violate labour laws, according to statements from the chair of the Business and Trade Committee.
MP Darren Jones expressed deep concern over distressing reports of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and bullying levelled against current and former staff at the UK outlets of the fast-food chain. The allegations included disturbing incidents of groping and harassment, involving workers as young as 17.
McDonald’s offered a profound apology and acknowledged its failure to meet expected standards.
In light of a BBC investigation into McDonald’s working conditions initiated in February, the company, under a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), had pledged to prevent staff from experiencing sexual harassment.
Despite the company’s initial claim of a strong record in this regard, the investigation uncovered over 100 allegations of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and homophobia lodged by McDonald’s employees within the last five months.
The allegations have prompted significant concern, including from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson, who labelled them deeply troubling. Most employees at McDonald’s are not directly employed by the company; rather, the franchise model is used, allowing individual operators to manage the outlets and hire staff.
Are employment laws being upheld?
Darren Jones, a Labour MP, questioned the extent to which employment laws were being upheld within McDonald’s franchises and whether these commitments were included in the contracts with local restaurants.
He compared McDonald’s thoroughness in assessing burger quality and marketing standards to its potential negligence in ensuring fair and lawful treatment of employees. McDonald’s has maintained that its franchisees are required to adhere to UK law and that non-compliance can result in termination of their agreements.
The claims have been condemned
McDonald’s, a prominent private-sector employer in the UK, with a workforce of over 170,000 in 1,450 restaurants, has faced criticism for the alleged misconduct by managers at various locations. Workers have spoken out about incidents of harassment and assault, with some describing an environment where such behaviour was expected. The claims have been widely condemned by public figures, including Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, who condemned the exploitation of young workers by older managers.
To address the issue of workplace harassment, Alistair Macrow, CEO of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, cited ongoing awareness training for managers and the implementation of new protective measures. However, MP Darren Jones insisted that the company must take responsibility to ensure such abuses are not perpetuated under its watch. The call for McDonald’s to take stronger action in franchise oversight and employee protection continues to resonate.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.