McDonald’s has signed a legal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which commits it to protecting workers against sexual harassment.
The fast food giant’s UK arm, McDonald’s Restaurants Limited, has signed a ‘section 23 agreement’ with the government’s equality watchdog in response to concerns about the handling of harassment complaints made by UK staff.
As the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the Equality Act 2010, the EHRC can enter into legally binding agreements to compel organisations to reduce discrimination. These section 23 agreements generally include an action plan and a commitment to deliver it over a set timeframe.
The agreement with McDonald’s covers:
- communicating a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment
- conducting an anonymous survey of workers about workplace safety
- enhancing policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment and improve responses to complaints
- delivering anti-harassment training
- introducing specific training and materials to help managers identify areas of risk and take steps to prevent sexual harassment
- supporting the uptake of the policy and training materials by franchisees
- monitoring progress towards a safe, respectful and inclusive working environment.
Alistair Macrow, chief executive at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “As one of the UK’s leading employers, the safety and wellbeing of our people is our absolute priority. It is hugely important to me that everyone in our organisation feels safe, respected and included at all times – this is core to the values of our business.
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“We already have a strong track record in this area and I now welcome the opportunity to work with the EHRC to further strengthen this. We will partner with the EHRC to bolster our best practice training and reporting approaches across our business to ensure that our values are understood, lived and acted upon across our organisation. Harassment and abuse have no place in our society or at McDonald’s.”
EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner said: “We are pleased that McDonald’s has signed this agreement to signal their intent to make their restaurants safe places to work. The improvements they put in place can set an example for others to follow, whether in the hospitality industry or elsewhere.
“There should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in every organisation. It can devastate people’s lives and create a toxic working environment for all.”
According to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), which represents McDonald’s workers, the company has been using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to hide cases of sexual harassment in its restaurants.
In 2019, hundreds of McDonald’s workers across 12 US cities walked out in protest over how the company dealt with sexual harassment claims.
We will partner with the EHRC to bolster our best practice training and reporting approaches across our business to ensure that our values are understood, lived and acted upon across our organisation. Harassment and abuse have no place in our society or at McDonald’s.” – Alistair Macrow, McDonald’s
Sarah Woolley General Secretary of the BFAWU said: “McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski says ‘sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for’, but sexual harassment is caused by the very structures within McDonald’s.
“This is not a few bad apples: this is caused by a system of zero hours contracts; when crew members must depend on the goodwill of managers to be allocated hours; when low pay is endemic and working women are expected to live pay cheque to pay cheque, when there’s a culture of cover-up with the use of NDAs; and when McDonald’s continue to victimise members of trade unions when unions form anywhere in McDonald’s. When all that continues to happen I’m afraid sexual harassment will continue to be an issue in McDonald’s.”
A McDonald’s worker told the union: “My store has had a number of problems with managers being inappropriate, often the victim was too scared to raise the issue, as they would be reporting it to someone who is friends with the manager, we need a trade union we can trust to report these issues to. McDonald’s needs to thank our union for raising these issues and recognise it as important part of ending sexual harassment at work.”
McDonald’s has been contacted for further comment on the alleged use of NDAs.
A bill that seeks to outlaw the use of NDAs in cases of sexual harassment is working its way through parliament. A Workers Protection Bill will also introduce a new duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.
Last month former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fined $400,000 (£330,808) for misleading investors about why he was dismissed from the company. He was sacked after it emerged he had hidden a consensual sexual relationship with an employee, and a further investigation uncovered further hidden relationships.
The company prohibits “any kind of intimate relationship between employees in a direct or indirect reporting relationship”.
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