The BBC has gathered more than 100 allegations of sexual and racial abuse as well as harassment, homophobia and bullying as part of an investigation into workplace conditions at McDonald's.
Among the findings, it was revealed that workers as young as 17 are being ‘groped and harassed almost routinely’.
The investigation was launched by the BBC after McDonald’s signed a legal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to better protect its UK staff from sexual harassment back in February.
Of the more than 100 allegations from employees, 31 related to sexual assault, and 78 related to sexual harassment.
There were a further 18 allegations of racism, while six people made allegations of homophobia.
Responding to the investigation, Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald's UK & Ireland, said there was ‘simply no place for harassment, abuse, or discrimination’ at the company.
“Every one of the 177,000 employees in McDonald's UK deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace. There are clearly instances where we have fallen short and for that we deeply apologise,” he told the BBC.
“We will investigate all allegations brought to us, and 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.”
McDonald’s Restaurants Limited signed the legal agreement with the EHRC in response to concerns about the handling of sexual harassment complaints made by staff in its UK restaurants.
It followed a report that detailed a ‘toxic culture’, which saw ‘at least 1,000 women abused and predatory employees moved to different stores rather than sacked’.
Responding to the latest allegations, the EHRC said it was ‘concerned’ by the BBC's findings and is launching a new email hotline for those affected.
Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the EHRC said: “There should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in every organisation. I’m concerned at these new reports of harassment at McDonald’s, where we have an existing legal agreement in place to ensure their restaurants are safe places to work.
“McDonald’s have committed to make improvements to set an example for others to follow, in the hospitality industry and elsewhere.
“Every employer, no matter how big or small, is responsible for protecting its workforce. We’re determined to continue to crack down on illegal harassment at places of work.”
The EHRC said anyone who is concerned about incidents of harassment in McDonald’s can report it to: email@example.com.