McDonalds is under the spotlight once more for failing to protect their employees from sexual harassment. In February the company entering into a binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to address long standing problems, a further investigation by the BBC in July this year and with a forthcoming appearance by McDonald’s UK CEO, Alistair Macrow in front of the Westminster Business and Trade Select Committee next Tuesday, 14th December it would appear a lot of work is still needed to rid the organisation of the predatory behaviour employees are reporting having been subjected to in their workplaces.
The original BBC investigation spoke to one employee who had experienced sexual harassment by a manager as far back as 2018, McDonald’s manager ‘exposed himself in front of me’
The latest revelations by the BBC McDonald’s: ‘There’s disgusting behaviour at my branch’would suggest the problem may have increased since July, with over 150 employees contacting the BBC and 200 contacting the helpline set up by the EHRC to regsister complaints. Since entering into the agreement with McDonalds and setting up their, Confidential email hotline set up for reporting McDonald’s harassment incidents , the equality regulator has maintained a position of silence on the issue.
On 18 July the CEO of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said “more than 2,000 managers had completed full awareness training and that most restaurant teams were now working within the new protections which aim to create a safe and respectful workplace”. If that was the case in July we mighthave expactedto see complaints reducing, but McDonald’s have refused to provide details on the number of employess and ex-employees contacting their own sexual harassment reporting line, why would this be?
But this problem is not just confined to McDonald’s, it is more widespread than people might think and was recently highlighted by the STUC Women’s Committe in March 2002, when they published their report, Silence is Compliance ,a study of women’ s experience of sexual harassment in the workplace and they call for the HSE to acknowledge, in their role as our workplace health and safety regulator, to recognise the psychological and physical harm caused by sexual harassment and enforce health and safety regulations accordingly.
In a set of wide reaching recommendations, their ask of employers includes prioritising prevention, introducing distinct and robust policies on sexual harassment at work, sexual harassment policies to be communicated to new starts at induction, introducing reporting and recording of incidents of sexual harassment at work and a committment to investigate all complaints and deal with prepatrators accordingly.
Their demands go ignored by regulators, the HSE’s position is that they do not enforce where there is a more appropriate regulator to do so. A bizarre position, the stress caused by sexual harassment perpetrators is a health and safety hazard and should be risk assessed to ensure the employer meets their general duty of care to their workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In a response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Scottish Hazards the EHRC, the regulator for equality admitted they do not take complaints from individuals, adding this is the role for the Equality Advice and Support Service. This appears to be a function outsourced by the EHRC and therefore not subject to freedom of information regulations. It is practically impossible to ascertain with any degree of accuracy have been subjected to illegal acts of sexual harassment in our workplaces. Police Scotland advised Scottish Hazards in their response to a Freedom of Information request that their computer systems do not allow them to provide information on incidences workplace sexual harassmment and every single record would have to be examined. Is it comforting that Police Scotland’s record keeping appear to be incapable of allowing a response to a reasonable, and what we thought straightforward FOI request.
Scottish Hazards is concerned that regulators and Police Scotland are ignoring the problem, only paying attention when large household names are caught out, sexual harassment is an abuse of power. Normally acts are, but not exclusively, perpetrated by someone in a senior position against a subordinate and, any form it is unacceptable. It is not only an equality issue, but causes harm to those subjected to harassment in the workplace but sadly our health and safety regulators are maintaining the same vow of silence as their equality counterparts.
Scottish Hazards is supporting the work of the STUC Women’s Committee to tackle secxial harassment at work, the EHRC position as a regulator who neither records, investigate or prosecutes offences is untenable, as is the HSE’s in ingnoring the workplace harm likely to be caused by exposure to acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a crime and Police Scotland have to update their computer systems to ensure crimes involving sexual harassment at work are recorded as being either work related or connected to work.
The STUC Women’s Committee message, Silence is Compliance, is not just for employers, trade unions and public policy makers, it is for regulators, enforcers, police and prosecutors.
In their case their action may speak louder than words.