The term McJob highlights problems rife in the wider catering sector

There’s no doubt that the term McJob conjures images of school drop-outs getting the minimum wage for flipping burgers. The fast food retailer has been working hard over the past year to try and change these perceptions, including a recruitment drive detailing the benefits of working for McDonald’s using the slogan “Not bad for a McJob”. 

The firm is now on a mission to change the dictionary definition of McJob, which is listed by the Oxford English Dictionary as an “unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects”. 

Big name supporters

The campaign has been bolstered with the launch of a petition last month which has already been signed by the likes of government skills envoy Sir Digby Jones and British Retail Consortium director-general Kevin Hawkins. 

An Early Day Motion has even been tabled in parliament by Clive Betts MP calling for recognition of the “valuable contribution the 1.9 million people in the UK’s hospitality and catering industry make to the UK’s economy”.

Has the world gone McMad or is this campaign highlighting some important problems that are rife in the wider sector?

Dale Atkinson, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium, welcomed the campaign.

“The perception is that a lot of jobs in the industry are a stopgap and are not a real career option. This needs to change to improve retention,” he said.

Career opportunities

Atkinson said other employers should follow McDonald’s lead and communicate the message that even junior roles can provide good career opportunities.

“Junior roles often build valuable skills and can lead to a whole range of long-term careers. There are many success stories where people start working weekends and progress up the career ladder to very senior roles. Firms now need to get this message across,” he said.

Not all employers are ready to admit there is a problem. Refusing to comment on the campaign or the notion that stigmas exist in the sector, a spokesperson for rival fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken, said its recruitment and retention strategy had always been to focus on giving staff the best opportunities to progress their careers. 

“KFC prides itself on being able to offer employment throughout the company and many opportunities for career progression. This ranges from part-time staff through to regional management and beyond,” he said.

However, Mark Sykes, managing director of recruitment firm Lister Charles, which specialises in middle and senior appointments in the hospitality industry, said stigmas do exist and must be overcome.  

He said the root of the problem was that no specific standard of education was needed to enter the industry for low-skilled work.

“The type of individual taking up such a job will therefore vary greatly – at one end of the spectrum you will have someone who is serious about making a career in the hospitality industry – but at the other end you have people who are just ‘passing through’ to put themselves through education or just for some spare cash.

This high turnover of staff creates stigma around the industry. But McDonald’s is actually full of people who entered the business at a junior level and have created fantastic careers and wealth for themselves,” Sykes said.
 
Employers should, said Sykes, support McDonald’s move and try and better communicate the positive opportunities the sector holds. “This is after all an industry where it is relatively easy to develop a management career quicker and more successfully than in so many other sectors,” he added.

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