Friday, 21 July 2023 11:09

Bullying, Harassment and Abuse at Maccy D’s

We find ourselves talking about bullying, harassment, and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace again after recent accusations levelled against UK branches of McDonalds have reignited the issue. It’s a critical matter that appears to have been buried beneath corporate culture within the organisation. However, this is not a stand-alone incident. It is a representation of a pervasive problem deeply entrenched in workplaces across numerous industries and speaks volumes of our basic human instincts.

Coincidentally, the Bullying and Respect at Work Bill, proposed in the Commons last week by MP Rachael Maskell has come at an opportune time. The bill proposes to define 'workplace bullying' in the UK, and make it an offence that can be taken to tribunal and for which a perpetrator can be dismissed. Currently, a worker who feels forced to leave a place of work because they are bullied, must rely on wrongful or constructive dismissal if they want to bring a case.

Despite there being numerous discussions and studies around the subject, a legally binding definition has yet to be confirmed. A proper definition will not only provide clarity and uniformity, but will also become a cornerstone for constructing effective policies and guidelines, aiding prevention and resolution.

Workplace bullying can manifest in various forms - from direct confrontations to subtle, psychological torment. The ramifications are severe, impacting not just the employee's mental health, but also the overall productivity of the organisation. Moreover, the collateral damage extends to the company’s morale, trust, and reputation.

In the McDonalds case, a group of employees voiced their experiences, alleging that the company turned a blind eye to their complaints of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment and unwanted touching. Such allegations clearly affect McDonalds’s reputation, and call into question the effectiveness of its HR policies and workplace ethics.

Most McDonalds restaurants are owned as independent franchises but core to the company’s values is an experience of consistency. This means that corporate HQ strongly influences how the outlets operate and so must bear significant responsibility in the overall company culture. Thus, they must burden some of the blame for the behaviour of workers within the franchises.

Furthermore, many McDonalds employees are relatively young; new to the world of work, inexperienced in their rights and nervous of blotting their early careers with a mark for a dismissal or spurious allegation. This makes them particularly susceptible by older, more senior employees who are emboldened by the power they wield and the perceived protection that the McDonald brand gives them.

As HR professionals, our role is pivotal in shaping an organisation's culture. Our efforts should be directed towards creating a culture that respects individuality, promotes fairness, and discourages any form of bullying and harassment. We all have an ethical responsibility to safeguard our workers from damaging behaviour.

The proposed bill could serve as a beacon of hope for victims who have, out of fear of retaliation or further victimisation, hitherto suffered in silence. A clear, legal definition will enable efficient enforcement of justice, and ensure that no such instances are dismissed as mere banter. It will also compel organisations to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring a healthy and respectful work environment.

Organisations, should act now. Transparency and open communication should be the bedrock of an anti-bullying strategy. Employees should feel secure in voicing their concerns without the fear of repercussions. Whistleblower protection measures, a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying, and regular audits of the work environment are some of the methods that businesses and organisations can adopt.

Appropriate training can also play a significant role in mitigating such issues. Employees at all levels should be educated about the impact of bullying, harassment, and inappropriate behaviour, and how they can play a role in curbing it. Our Dignity at Work training course is a great place to start and we can provide two-tiered training that comprises a detailed workshop for supervisors and managers, coupled with lighter, briefing sessions that can be delivered to larger groups of employees and general staff. You can see more information here.

The McDonalds situation, while unfortunate, provides a stark reminder that workplace bullying is an issue that needs urgent attention. It emphasises the need for swift action and preventative measures. With the impending government bill, we are at the cusp of a new era in workplace ethics. It is up to us, as HR professionals, to make a difference, to ensure workplaces are safe, respectful spaces for all.

You can read more on the McDonalds story on the BBC website at https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?q=mcdonald+bullying&d=news_ps and the first reading of the Bullying and Respect at Work Bill at https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001p2sg/ten-minute-rule-bill-workplace-bullying

Every workplace deserves an environment where employees can thrive without fear. It's not just about policy; it's about people. Get in touch with us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 746 times Last modified on Friday, 21 July 2023 14:12


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  





We are located in Gloucester in the West of the UK close to the M4 and M5 corridors. For a precise map and directions find us on Google Maps

We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.