Allegations of Sexual Assault, Harassment, and Racism Rock McDonald’s UK: More than 100 Staff Speak Out

McDonald’s in the UK is facing allegations of a toxic culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and bullying by over 100 current and former employees. The workers, some as young as 17, claim to have experienced routine groping and harassment. The BBC’s investigation revealed that 31 allegations were related to sexual assault, 78 were related to sexual harassment, and 18 were related to racism. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) expressed concern over the findings and will be launching a new email hotline. McDonald’s has apologized and acknowledged that it “fell short” in providing a safe and inclusive workplace.

The investigation into working conditions at McDonald’s began in February, after the company made a legally binding agreement with the EHRC to protect its staff from sexual harassment. McDonald’s claimed to have a strong track record in this area at the time. However, the BBC’s investigation revealed a different reality. Over a five-month period, the BBC interviewed McDonald’s workers and received allegations from over 100 employees. The allegations included incidents of sexual assault, sexual harassment, racism, and homophobia.

The specific claims heard by the BBC included a 17-year-old employee in Cheshire who was subjected to racial slurs and asked to engage in sexual activities by a colleague 20 years older than her. Another former worker in Plymouth claimed that a senior manager choked her and groped her bottom when she was 17. The BBC also heard allegations of managers suggesting sexual acts in exchange for vapes, managers pressuring new female starters into having sex, and staff members making racist and derogatory remarks.

Multiple workers stated that the harassment and assaults were perpetuated by McDonald’s managers across the UK, with senior managers often failing to act on complaints. The employees also reported sexual relationships between managers and junior staff members, which is against company policy. Female workers described feeling constantly judged based on their appearances. Some workers were forced to wear uniforms that were too tight for them. Female employees were also referred to as “fresh meat,” reinforcing a culture of harassment.

McDonald’s is one of the UK’s largest private sector employers, with over 170,000 employees across 1,450 restaurants. The majority of its workforce is aged between 16 and 25, and for many, it is their first job. While McDonald’s uses a franchise system, where individual operators are licensed to run the outlets and employ staff, the company is responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of its employees.

The BBC’s investigation has shed light on a disturbing culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and bullying within McDonald’s restaurants in the UK. McDonald’s has acknowledged its failure to provide a safe and inclusive workplace and has apologized for the incidents. The EHRC’s decision to launch a new email hotline in response to the findings will hopefully provide a platform for workers to report such incidents and seek support. It is imperative that action is taken to address these issues and ensure that all workers, regardless of their age or background, can work in a safe and respectful environment.