LEGAL claims have been issued against ten McDonald’s franchisees across Scotland for sexual abuse and harassment.

Law firm Leigh Day is launching a group legal action on behalf of employees across the UK who have reportedly provided lawyers with evidence of “widespread harassment and potentially unsafe working practices”.

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

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The National can now reveal that the suit includes 32 current or former employees representing 10 separate McDonald's outlets across Scotland.

In 2018, McDonald’s reported that there were 95 branches spread across the country, which would suggest that more than 10% across the nation are currently subject to sexual abuse, assault or harassment claims.

A former Scottish McDonald’s worker speaks out

One of the Scottish worker’s issuing a legal claim against McDonald’s was just 16 years old when he joined a branch in Greater Glasgow, starting off part-time whilst at school before quickly rising up the ranks.

“It was a very hard place to work, it was very stressful. There were never enough staffing levels,” he said.

After bringing up that very issue – particularly on late shifts – on WhatsApp one night, he alleges in his legal claim that his manager came into the branch towards the end of his shift and assaulted him.

“It was 6am. I was making my way out of the store, she assaulted me by punching me in the face, kicking me in the private areas, as well as slapping and pushing me.

“The police were also called twice. I think somebody in the street called them and then I had to call because the manager actually got into a car, which she left at the branch overnight, and followed me home.”

The manager wasn’t arrested and didn’t receive any disciplinary action from McDonald’s after a short investigation, other than being moved to another branch 10 minutes away, the employee said.

“I had a meeting with my store manager about the incident. I showed her all the text messages. And I said the incident would have been caught on CCTV.

“And I was told there had been an issue with all the CCTV covering the incident and only the incident itself. It suddenly went missing.”

The employee claimed that the store manager didn’t interview any of the witnesses to the incident either.

Several weeks later, he said he was passed up on a promotion – although it was not confirmed this was in relation to the incident.

Is this an 'endemic' issue at McDonald’s?

In November, following the initial BBC investigation, Alistair Macrow (below), chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said that 157 reports had already been fully investigated, with 75 resulting in disciplinary action, including a number of sackings.

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’

“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,” he said in a statement.

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

But union bosses told MPs on the UK Parliament’s business and trade select committee that same month that the situation had not improved for workers since internal investigations started..

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.

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The former Scottish McDonald’s employee disagreed with Macrow that the abuse and harassment wasn’t an “endemic” issue, describing McDonald’s as a “toxic” environment to work.

“There was a couple of times that members of management made unwanted approaches on female members of staff,” he said.

“There were different things that were investigated privately but nothing again ever came to light with it. It was an environment of silence."

The former employee, who says he worked in roughly 10-15 outlets across Scotland during his time at the company, added: "And to be honest with you, it's the same in every McDonald's.

"You speak to any member of staff, and they'll probably tell you the exact same story just in a different format.

“And it is a real shame because there are some staff who are there to make a genuine career out of it, do a genuine job and they genuinely want to help.”

Leigh Day solicitor Mandy Bhattal told The National that the McDonald’s workforce is also primarily made up of younger staff, who are “inherently more vulnerable” than their older colleagues.

She added: “Our clients are bringing these claims to hold McDonald’s to account and to attempt to secure safer working conditions for young people, to give the young workers a stronger voice and show McDonald’s how their policies and practices are affecting their younger workforce."

The claim is still making its way through the Tribunal system and no defence has yet been served.

A McDonald’s spokesperson said it is “deeply concerning to hear any report of this nature”.

They added: “Every one of McDonald’s UK’s 177,000 employees across our franchised and MRL owned restaurants deserve to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace.

“We remain committed and determined to root out any behaviour that falls below the high standards we demand at McDonald’s, and we continue to thoroughly investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention.

"We are unable to comment further on any ongoing legal cases.”