Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said the allegations brought to light by the BBC were ‘personally and professionally shocking’, and reiterated his unreserved apology to all those affected.
“We have clearly fallen short in some critical areas, and 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 as detailed in our global brand standards,” he said.
The BBC 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.
Macrow said the new Investigation Handling Unit will have oversight on all cases and the power to refer the most serious to a third-party legal team staffed by specialist investigators.
The Unit will be run by HR and Legal professionals full time until at least the end of this year.
“Any substantiated breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures up to, and including, dismissal,” Macrow added.
“I commit to all former or current employees, who have experienced any type of harassment, abuse, discrimination, and victimisation that the full weight of our Investigation Handling Unit will be applied in pursuit of resolution.”
In total, Macrow has three immediate action areas in response to the BBC investigation.
Noting that many cases allege failures of appropriate and timely escalation in response to issues, Macrow will also appoint external experts to independently evaluate the performance of McDonald’s’ escalation protocols and to assess their effectiveness, general accessibility, and the extent of employee understanding and awareness.
This will include direct employee feedback on the escalation protocols.
Additionally, he will lead a company-wide conversation aimed at ensuring there is wholehearted confidence in and support for a ‘speaking up’ culture; and assemble a panel of restaurant crew employees from across the country to operate as an advisory group to help embed ‘speak up’ confidence throughout the business.
“We intend to move at a pace in line with the gravity of the issues but also ensuring we are fair and accurate in our investigations, and any resulting enhancements.”