Five Months After Signing Protection Agreement, More Than 100 UK McDonald’s Employees Open Up About Harassment Incidents.

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More than 100 McDonald’s employees have spoken up on sexual harassment, racism and homophobia incidents – five months after the company signed a section 23 agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). According to the BBC, near-regular sexual harassment incidents happened – with some workers as young as 17. 

It was said that management often disregard the incidents and chose to turn a blind eye. The situation was revealed to be quite upsetting, with a significant number of workers admitting to having experienced harassment when working there. The BBC findings have prompted the EHRC to launch a new email hotline for workers to report further incidents. 

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Findings of the BBC

Incidents of harassment and abuse within McDonald’s outlets across the UK have been revealed by the BBC, exposing a concerning trend of mistreatment of young workers, particularly young women. Reports include a 17-year-old employee in Cheshire alleging that a coworker, 20 years her senior, used racial slurs, made explicit sexual advances, and expressed a desire to create a racially mixed child.

Similar disturbing incidents have been reported in various locations across the country. In Plymouth, a former 17-year-old worker accused a senior manager of choking her and groping her, while a shift manager sent her explicit images. Another instance occurred in Hampshire, where a 16-year-old male worker was propositioned to engage in sexual acts in exchange for vapes.

Moreover, a manager in Cheshire targeted 16-year-old female newcomers at a restaurant, attempting to coerce them into sexual activities. In Aberdeen, a female employee faced racial discrimination, enduring offensive slurs and racist jokes. Instances of antisemitic abuse were reported by a current worker in Essex, and in Oxfordshire, a female employee from India faced mockery and a Pakistani colleague was subjected to derogatory comments.

In Wales, male managers and crew members participated in inappropriate behaviour, placing bets on who could sleep with a new recruit first. In Northern Ireland, an outbreak of gonorrhoea was linked to the commonplace occurrence of sexual relationships among staff members.

Regrettably, senior managers have allegedly failed to take appropriate action in response to these complaints, leaving victims without recourse. Young women have expressed feeling persistently judged based on their appearance, with one current worker in Nottingham describing the male colleagues’ view of her as “fresh meat” upon her arrival. Some female employees disclosed being compelled by managers to wear overly tight uniforms.

Moreover, a troubling culture of harassment appears to be ingrained in some McDonald’s outlets. A deplorable saying, “tits on tills” – implying attractive women should work at the front counter – highlights the disturbing expectations that young employees endure.

Workplace Harassment in the UK

The EHRC has written several reports that illustrate the prevalence of harassment in workplaces across the UK, specifically sexual harassment. Their 2018 “Turning the Tables” report revealed that three-quarters of their research participants have experienced sexual harassment at work. They noted that nearly all of those respondents were women and the most common perpetrator was senior colleagues. 

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This echoes other research, such as TUC’s 2016 report that found 52% of women have experienced unwanted behaviour at work – which they described to include groping, inappropriate jokes as well as sexual advances. The number is higher for 16-24-year-old women workers which is 63%. 

Many refrained from reporting their encounters with harassment within the workplace. The barriers to reporting were multi-faceted, encompassing concerns such as the belief that the employer would not treat the matter seriously, apprehension that alleged harassers, especially senior staff, would receive protection, fear of facing victimization, and a deficiency in suitable reporting channels.

The disturbing accounts of young workers, particularly young women, facing discriminatory behaviour, abuse, and exploitation underscore the urgent need for change. Effective measures, including comprehensive training, robust reporting mechanisms, and a commitment to holding perpetrators accountable, are essential in eradicating these systemic issues. 

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