The head of McDonald’s in the United Kingdom has apologised after the BBC reported allegations of sexual misconduct, racism and bullying by staff at the fast-food giant.
More than 100 former and current workers of the US company had made the allegations, the British state broadcaster said on Tuesday after it began investigating in February.
“Multiple workers told us that McDonald’s managers at the outlets across the UK were responsible for the harassment and assaults,” the BBC said. “All too often, senior managers are said to have failed to act on complaints.”
The investigation came after McDonald’s signed a legally-binding agreement with the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), pledging to protect staff from sexual harassment.
“Every one of the 177,000 employees in McDonald’s UK deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace,” its UK chief executive Alistair Macrow told the BBC in response to the allegations.
“There are clearly instances where we have fallen short and for that, we deeply apologise.”
He added that “all proven breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures we can legally impose, up to and including dismissal”.
The EHRC said it was “concerned” by the allegations, which it would examine “in the context of our current legal agreement with McDonald’s to tackle sexual harassment of staff in its restaurants”.
McDonald’s staff is one of the UK’s youngest workforces, with three quarters aged between 16 and 25.
The BBC was told that workers, some as young as 17, are being groped and harassed almost routinely.