100 UK McDonald's staff have accused the fast-food giant of normalising a toxic culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying in the workplace.

A BBC investigation today revealed that workers, some as young as 17, are being groped and harassed almost routinely.

The UK equality watchdog said it was "concerned" by the BBC's findings and is launching a new email hotline.

In response, McDonald's said it had "fallen short" and it "deeply apologised".

It added that all employees deserved to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace.

The BBC began investigating working conditions at McDonald's in February, after the company signed a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in which it pledged to protect its staff from sexual harassment.

At the time, McDonald's insisted: "We already have a strong track record in this area."

Over a five-month period, the BBC reached out to McDonald's workers to ask about their experiences of working there. Of the more than 100 allegations from employees they spoke to, 31 related to sexual assault, and 78 related to sexual harassment.

There were also 18 allegations of racism, while six people made allegations of homophobia, as per the BBC.

Claims the BBC has heard include:

  • A 17-year-old current employee in Cheshire said a colleague 20 years older than her called her a racial slur word and asked to show her his penis, and said he wanted to make a "black and white" baby with her
  • A former worker was 17 when a senior manager at a Plymouth restaurant choked her and grabbed her bottom. A shift manager also sent her sexually explicit images
  • A manager in Hampshire suggested a 16-year-old male worker perform sexual acts in exchange for vapes
  • A manager who preyed on 16-year-old new female starters in a Cheshire restaurant, trying to pressurise them into having sex
  • A woman who said she was called a slur word and subject to racist jokes at an Aberdeen branch
  • A current worker in Essex says she faced anti-Semitic abuse
  • A current worker in Oxfordshire, originally from India, says crew members spoke in "gibberish" to imitate her and called a Pakistani colleague a terrorist
  • Male managers and crew members at a branch in Wales making jokes about putting cash bets on which of them could sleep with a new recruit first
  • An outbreak of gonorrhoea at a branch in Northern Ireland where sexual relationships between staff members were commonplace

Allegations of sexual harassment at McDonald's first surfaced in the UK five years ago when the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) says it received 1,000 complaints. There was very little reporting of the allegations at the time - this could be because some cases were settled using confidentiality clauses.

Sarah Woolley, BFAWU's general secretary, said the new allegations uncovered by the BBC were "shocking".

McDonald's response:

Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald's UK & Ireland, told the BBC 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."

"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."

Mr Macrow said that 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".

He added that the company has stringent rules to ensure its workplaces around the world are safe and respectful.