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Sexual harassment and McDonalds

McDonald’s have been in the headlines again, with the BBC revealing that more than 100 staff had come forward to complain about sexual harassment at some of its franchise stores in the UK.  

Sexual harassment @ work

Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally committed by older more experienced men on younger female staff. 

Unsurprisingly the fast food industry contains a lot of employees who will fit into these two categories – younger, female and male staff, perhaps in their first jobs, and older managers or franchise owners.

Why are the young more vulnerable to sexual harassment?

Young people may not have accumulated the life skills to deal with people who are not behaving appropriately, and many fear that reporting bad behaviour might cause them to lose their job.  

Assessing the risk of sexual harassment occurring 

Consider the following question: does the organisation have younger people working with older people in your organisation? If the answer is yes, then there is potential for the environment for sexual harassment to take place.

Obviously, the larger the organisation, the more likely it is that this mix of older workers and younger workers might lead to issues around sexual harassment or workplace bullying. 

The risk assessment should take account of other groups, as well as employees. Some workplaces will feature, volunteers, suppliers, clients and others.  

If sexual harassment is possible, what should we do about it?  

In the BBC reports it’s suggested that McDonalds HR  rolled out a mandatory online course. Given the headlines, it seems this didn’t prevent widespread abuse of young people. 

Some of the employees that came forward to the BBC said that the online training course wasn’t really taken seriously, one witness talked about a manager flicking through the course on his phone with one hand, operating a Mcflurry machine with the other.  

Is online training the most effective way?

We have the technology available to produce online courses, which can be massively time saving from a training point of view. But we have to question, are people actually taking any notice of it?

Whilst on-line training might be most suitable and pragmatic for smaller and lower risk employers, it’s unlikely to be the most effective way to train staff in larger employers and higher risk environments, where a combination of training approaches will often be required.

Training solutions for sexual harassment

The focus for due diligence training should be to genuinely try to stop unwanted behaviors happening in the first place. An added bonus is that effective training  will also protect the employer from vicarious liability claims.

 As a minimum, training should:

  • State the employer’s policy
  • Educate staff and managers about the subject matter
  • Give examples of what e.g. sexual harassment is in a work context
  • Provide effective reporting mechanisms and encourage staff to report incidents
  • Detail help and support available

Larger and higher risk employers are advised to consider a range of training and communication methods, including face to face training, e-mail and texts in addition to online training. A rigorous due diligence programme will also include topic surveys and a confidential helpline.

HR support from myHRdept

myHRdept provide due diligence training to our clients and indeed to others.  All of our retained clients have access to training materials that we produce, as well as videos and other useful resources, available from the client area.  

For larger and higher risk employers we can also create bespoke programmes covering a range of due diligence training, including our CPD accredited courses.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR, payroll or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515, email us at to discuss your requirements, or contact us via our website and we’ll call you back.

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