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McDonalds employees’ allegations shine a spotlight on sexual harassment

Sadly, sexual harassment is still a very present issue in many workplaces. In fact, recent research has found that almost three-quarters (72%) of female workers have seen or been subject to inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues in the workplace.

Over 1,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported in McDonalds restaurants in the UK as of 2019, according to claims by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Concerns were raised about the company failing to respond effectively, which led to the involvement of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Now, McDonald’s has signed a legally binding pledge with EHRC which outlines their new commitment to several measures to better protect UK workers. These include communicating a zero-tolerance stance on sexual harassment, providing anti-harassment training to staff, and implementing effective policies to manage complaints.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy at Peninsula, says “It’s the responsibility of all employers to take proactive measures to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace:

“Sadly, sexual harassment is still a very present issue in many workplaces. In fact, recent research has found that almost three-quarters (72%) of female workers have seen or been subject to inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues in the workplace.

“A Worker Protection Bill is currently progressing through parliament which could see a duty placed on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. While this is something employers should keep an eye on, it’s important to note that under the Equality Act 2010, employers can be held legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by a colleague if it is found they didn’t take all reasonable steps to prevent this from happening.

“As such, all businesses should pro-actively review their policies on sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace and assess how aware employees are of them.

“While a robust policy is the first step in preventing misconduct, organisations should also ensure they have a clear, zero-tolerance attitude towards this behaviour. Similarly, workplace training for managers and workers on how to manage, avoid and report inappropriate actions can go a long way in discouraging all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, as can providing effective support for affected employees.

“Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission teamed up with UK Hospitality to publish a new action plan and checklist for employers, to help them stop sexual harassment in the workplace. This was created following research which found that most hospitality workers have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, and most found it to be a “normal” part of the job in settings where alcohol is consumed.

“Employers in customer-facing sectors should also keep in mind that harassment may come from third parties so take extra steps to minimise the impact this could have on employees. Failure to adequately address inappropriate behaviours and creating a culture which does not facilitate diversity and inclusion can prove detrimental for organisations; those who don’t may risk tribunal claims, high turnover, and reduced productivity.”

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