Skip to main content

McDonald's: sector expert highlights two legal considerations

Earlier this this year we discussed McDonald's has reached a legal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission under which it has agreed to take steps to eliminate sexual harassment from its restaurants. 

The reports of further sexual harassment and assault claims against McDonald’s in today’s media brings two important legal considerations to the forefront of the hospitality sector. The first is the long awaited third party harassment legislation which is making its way through the Lords and could come into force in 2024, the second is the importance of having stringent people focussed obligations within a franchise agreement and ensuring that those obligations are regularly audited.

We are currently waiting for details of what that third party harassment legislation will look like, but it is widely anticipated that it will require employers to undertake risk assessments to ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to avoid work place harassment. This will mean that e-learning and having a policy in place is unlikely to be sufficient, particularly in public facing roles, where work is carried out at night time and there is a likelihood that customers could be under the influence of alcohol. The hospitality sector need to be preparing now for what this new legislation will mean to them and their businesses. Retail is in a similar position, with the statistics around abuse to those in customer facing roles demonstrating an increasing challenge in a sector already in the grip of a recruitment crisis.

As to those who franchise, McDonald’s has always been seen as the King of franchising and as such their current predicament should be seen as a severe warning to all those who operate franchising models and wish to protect their brand. It is essential the people practices of their franchisees are up to scratch and protect not only the brand’s reputation but also the employees that are employed within those businesses. Having a basic level of training in place should be the bare minimum, e-learning alone is unlikely to be sufficient, other steps such as a clear process for making complaints, auditing and employee forums should also be considered. Businesses also need to empower staff to refuse to serve people who are rude to them or harass them and make sure that their managers support these decisions.

Our newsletters

We publish monthly employment newsletters. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list, please let me know. 

Our fixed price employment law service

We also have a fixed price employment law service. Please contact Gordon Rodham if you'd like to find out how we can help you avoid these sorts of problems with our fixed-fee annual retainer, or flexible discounted bank of hours service.  

A toxic culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying has been alleged by more than 100 current and recent UK staff at outlets of the fast-food chain McDonald's.”