Allegations of sexual harassment, racism and bullying made by dozens of McDonald’s staff are “personally and professionally shocking”, the fast food chain’s UK boss has said.

Alistair Macrow, the chief executive of McDonald’s in the UK and Ireland, has vowed to put measures in place to investigate complaints.

“We have clearly fallen short in some critical areas and I am determined to root out any behaviour or conduct that falls below the high standards of respect, safety and inclusion we demand of everyone at McDonald’s as detailed in our global brand standards,” he added.

It comes after the BBC published claims made by more than 100 current and former workers – with employees as young as 17 alleging they were groped and harassed regularly.

One teenager said she had suffered racial abuse, and an older colleague had allegedly asked her whether he could show her his penis.

While another former worker claimed a senior manager had choked her and grabbed her bottom.

Allegations were made across the UK, with one Oxfordshire employee who was originally from India claiming that colleagues spoke “gibberish” to imitate her.

The BBC also reported that male managers at a Welsh branch joked about putting cash bets on which of them could sleep with a new recruit first – while over in Northern Ireland, there was apparently an outbreak of gonorrhoea at a restaurant where sexual relationships between staff were common.

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McDonald’s has now confirmed a new unit is being established to crack down on sexual harassment and bullying. It will be run by HR and legal professionals.

“Any substantiated breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures up to, and including, dismissal,” Mr Macrow added.

External experts are also going to be hired to examine the staff complaints process, amid allegations that issues were not properly escalated.

“I will make sure that everyone is in no doubt of my own unequivocal insistence on zero tolerance of harassment of any kind and to ensure our non-negotiable message of respect and inclusivity is heard clearly throughout our business,” Mr Macrow said.

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