A NUMBER of Scottish workers have joined a group legal action against McDonald's for sexual assault and harassment, The National can reveal.

It comes after a raft of sexual abuse, racism and bullying claims from workers were made in July following a BBC investigation into the multinational fast food chain.

Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland (below), said earlier this month that 157 reports have already been fully investigated, with 75 resulting in disciplinary action, including a number of sackings. 

He stressed, however, that he does not see abuse and sexual harassment at the business as “an endemic cultural issue”. 

The National: Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, told MPs on Parliament’s business and trade select committee that testimonies from staff members alleging abuse or harassment at work were ‘truly horrific and hard to listen to’

Law firm Leigh Day is launching a group legal action on behalf of a number of employees, in relation to assault and harassment allegations, arguing the very opposite.

Kiran Daurka, a partner at Leigh Day handling the case, told The National that it was clear that there was a “pattern of behaviour” after speaking to their clients, which includes a number of Scots.

“McDonald's absolutely prides itself on having a very young workforce. Even on their website, it says that the average age of their employees is 20, and that they're the biggest employer of first-time workers,” Daurka said.

“We felt that we should explore the safeguarding of those workers in more detail. So the legal action is going to be centering around safe working for young people.”

She added that it is her firm’s view that junior crew members and staff could be entitled to bring claims regardless of whether they have directly experienced harassment or discrimination.

She went on: “They could have been exposed to unsafe work practices which may have enabled a culture of inappropriate and unlawful conduct towards McDonald's young and less experienced staff.”

READ MORE: McDonald’s faces one or two sexual harassment claims each week, boss admits

Daurka said that she thinks “not many people” were aware of the claims in Scotland and expects more to come forward.

In the summer, McDonald’s launched a programme of independent investigations, audits of its complaints procedure, reviews of its code of conduct and a number of full disciplinary hearings in response to the raft of claims.

But union bosses told MPs on the UK Parliament’s business and trade select committee that the situation has not improved for workers since.

Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, told MPs: “The feedback we are getting is that nothing has changed.

“There is a tick-box system that has been put in play, a video about how things are supposed to happen.

“We really welcome the involvement of EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) but what was really lacking is the workers’ involvement in that process.”

Unions also claimed that McDonald’s has a history of using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in response to allegations.

Macrow rejected these claims but admitted to including “confidentiality clauses” where workers leave the company with a settlement agreement.

In a statement, Macrow said: “I am completely determined to root out any behaviour that falls below the high standards of respect, safety and inclusion we demand of everyone at McDonald’s. That is why, in July, I immediately ordered measures to address critical areas we needed to strengthen. 

“I initiated a company-wide programme of independent investigations, auditing of our complaints processes, reviews of our codes of conduct and, in a number of cases, full disciplinary hearings. We started investigations on every single allegation brought to our attention. We also introduced an additional reporting mechanism and reminded employees of every existing channel available to them. 

“At the same time as introducing these new processes, we appointed external employment experts at PWC to independently evaluate and report on the effectiveness of our employment practices, safeguarding and disciplinary procedures. This process is underway, and we plan to implement new steps identified by this review as appropriate.

“While we are confident in the first steps we have taken, I am determined to understand what more we can do, and our efforts will need to be far reaching and constantly evolving. We know, however, that new processes will take time to embed fully in each of our 1,500 restaurants across the UK and Ireland.

“I am personally committed to ensuring all cases brought to our attention are investigated quickly and thoroughly. Where our standards have been breached, or where our processes fall short, I will drive change. I know it takes a great deal of personal courage to speak up and it is my top priority to ensure we act swiftly and decisively on what we hear.”