McDonald’s signs a legal agreement with EHRC to protect staff from sexual harassment

Published: 8 February 2023

McDonald’s Restaurants Limited has signed a legal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in response to concerns about the handling of sexual harassment complaints made by staff in its UK restaurants.

Under the legal agreement with the EHRC (known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006), McDonald’s Restaurants Limited has committed to:

  • 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 for employees
  • introducing specific training and materials to help managers identify areas of risk within their restaurants and take steps to prevent sexual harassment
  • supporting the uptake of policy and training materials by franchisees within their independent organisations to support reporting of sexual harassment
  • monitoring progress towards a safe, respectful and inclusive working environment

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by another employee, and the employer has not taken all steps they could to prevent it from happening.

Baroness Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

 “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.

"Every employer, no matter how big or small, is responsible for protecting its workforce. We work with all companies to help them do this. We are determined to crack down on workplace cultures of sexual harassment, whether in restaurants or hotels, sports clubs or offices.

“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.”

Alistair Macrow, Chief Executive Officer, McDonald’s Restaurants Limited in 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.

“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.”

In the Worker Protection Bill, Parliament is currently considering placing a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

Some employers say that a low incidence of reporting means there is no problem with harassment in their place of work, or assume that policies and procedures are enough to stop harassment from happening. Making these assumptions and not taking action can be hugely damaging for victims.

The EHRC, as Britain’s equality regulator, encourages all employers to take active steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. They can draw on EHRC guidance, which includes a legal explanation and practical examples of how to prevent and respond effectively to harassment. The EHRC has also worked with UK Hospitality to produce a checklist and action plan to help restaurants, hotels and pubs to protect their employees.

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