McDonald’s has formed a new investigation handling unit after the BBC revealed dozens of allegations of abuse at the fast food giant’s UK restaurants.
Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said the claims are “personally and professionally shocking”.
He issued an apology to staff who had been affected.
But workers say it’s “too little too late.”
The BBC’s investigators spoke to more than 100 current and recent McDonald’s staff across the UK over a five-month period.
Workers, some of whom were aged just 17, revealed they were groped and harassed as they carried out their work.
Ed, who was 16 when he worked at McDonald’s, said a senior manager repeatedly asked him for sex.
He said”It’s gross, it’s disgusting.
“And it’s horrifying that someone with that much power in the workplace could say something like that to a 16-year old such as myself.”
Ed said he told a senior manager about what had been happening, but he said the manager warned him that if he raised it again, he would face “severe consequences” and would not be eligible for promotion.
He said the harassment went on for several months, and it impacted his mental health and college attendance.
He left in April.
Other complaints included male staff talking about their sex lives in front of 16-year-olds.
One member of staff, Izzy, said: “It’s not just the language.
“It’s just, it’s unacceptable.”
Her sister, Liv, also worked at the same franchise, before leaving she left after experiencing a sexist and bullying culture.
She revealed one of the senior managers was openly racist about a new employee, who was Sikh.
Liv said he made a comment about how “it was her type of people that bomb us”.
She said: “Hearing something like that disgusted me, because I don’t get how you can just supposed to be almost setting an example for people, but you’re openly and freely saying stuff like this.”
“How can he be shocked?”
Current and former workers the BBC spoke to about Macrow’s plans said it’s “too little too late”.
One, called Warren, said: “How can he be shocked? How can you be CEO of a company and not know this is going on?”
Warren says he was sexually harassed when he was 16.
He added: “He’s either out of touch with reality or he’s just saying this now because they’ve had this negative publicity.”
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Macrow said: “The unit will have oversight on all cases and the power to refer the most serious cases to a third-party legal team staffed by specialist investigators.
“The unit will be run by human resource and legal professionals full-time until at least the end of this year.”
As well as setting up the unit, McDonald’s is appointing external experts to independently examine how workers’ claims are “escalated”.
What this means is it can look at when and how complaints are passed to other departments or more senior managers.
“It is crucial that people feel safe and able to speak up,”
Macrow added: “It is crucial that people feel safe and able to speak up,” he said. “Clearly this has not been the case in some parts of our business.”
“Any substantiated breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures up to, and including, dismissal.”
Mr Macrow said the company had “clearly fallen short” in some key areas.
“I am determined to root out any behaviour or conduct that falls below the high standards of respect, safety and inclusion we demand of everyone at McDonald’s.”
Darren Jones MP, chair of the Business and Trade Committee, has asked him what action the company takes to ensure its franchises comply with UK labour laws.
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Most workers are not directly employed by McDonald’s because the company uses a franchise system, meaning individual people are licensed to run the restaurants and employ the staff.
McDonald’s has until 11 August to respond to the letter.
The fast-food chain is one of the biggest private sector employers in the UK. It has more than 170,000 people working in 1,450 restaurants.
Mr Macrow also said he would assemble a panel of restaurant workers as an advisory group “to help embed ‘speak up’ confidence throughout our business with special regard for our tens of thousands of younger employees”.