Know your rights

Submitted by Steven. on September 15, 2010

When Ronald Beavers was vice president of McDonalds US, he famously boasted that crew members, “have no guaranteed employment rights. They do not have guaranteed employment or guaranteed conditions of employment”. Well, he was almost telling the truth. But you do have some rights, about three of them.

If you think you are being treated illegally at work, then you might want to try our magnificent online survey, “are you being screwed at work?”

Alternatively, please select from the sections listed below if you have a specific query.

These pages are ‘use at your own risk’! We’re burger flippers not lawyers and we strongly recommend you consult a ‘no win, no fee’ solicitor before doing anything crazy. We can also only provide a superficial over view here. More detailed information on employment law can be found at:

These pages are based on UK and EU law but some of the information will be relevant in the US and elsewhere. For information on US employment rights, see:

[libcom note: readers should also bear in mind that some of this advice will be out of date as laws will have changed]

Discrimination, Victimisation and Harassment

Are you being screwed more than everyone else or are you being screwed literally?


Capitalism, in its generosity, has granted us all the right to be screwed equally. It is therefore illegal for you to be treated differently from your fellow workers without good reason. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, sexuality, ability, age, etc. But it is also illegal to discriminate against someone for any other non-valid reason- because they have big ears for example. Discrimination can take different forms, it could be that people of a certain ethnic group are refused promotion, or it could be that people of certain sexualities are subjected to name calling, unpleasant jokes, or are excluded from certain activities. All of this is illegal and if you have suffered discrimination of the sort mentioned above, or of any other sort, then you may have been treated illegally.
Regrettably, there is an element within McDonalds management with goose-stepping sympathies, so unfortunately discrimination will tend to rear its ugly head from time to time. However, there are also other more subtle ways that discrimination can occur. For example, it is not acceptable to ascribe people particular tasks on the basis of their gender. Are you always put on tills because you are female or in kitchen because you are male? This is also a discriminatory practice. Similarly, it is discrimination to demand female staff wear skirts while their male colleagues wear trousers. We know management had to back down on this one in the past, but the reverse argument, that men should be allowed to wear skirts, has yet to be tested!
One important note on discrimination- you may think that if it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, and if you do the same job as someone else but get paid less because they are a year older than you, then you are being discriminated against. Well… no. Discrimination against young workers is enshrined in law as a cornerstone of minimum pay legislation. No, it doesn’t make sense to us either.


There are specific laws prohibiting victimisation on a number of grounds including but not limited to, trade union membership (your legal right), ‘whistle blowing’ (reporting illegal or unsafe practices to the relevant authorities- also a legal right) and claiming you legal rights under minimum wage and work times regulation laws.


Examples of harassment include unwanted sexual attention, name-calling, physical intimidation or other bullying. All of the above and other forms of harassment are illegal.
You should not be subject to any sexual advances you are not comfortable with, nor discriminated against for refusing such attention. You should not be forced to do anything you are uncomfortable with… sexually- unfortunately it is not harassment if you are made to stand by a hot grill for 6 hours.


Unpaid labour
Wage Deductions
Minimum Wage
Sick Pay
Holiday Pay
Maternity Pay
Paternity Pay

McDonalds managers sometimes try to save on labour costs by altering clock card entries. In other words, stealing workers wages. Although this is obviously illegal, in the instances where we know managers have been exposed for this practice they have never been dismissed, suggesting that fraudulent theft of employees' wages is a practice the company is prepared to tolerate. For this reason you should always keep a record of the hours you have worked and should check you have been paid correctly.

Unpaid labour

If you wanted to do voluntary work you wouldn't do it at McDonalds. Never let them tell you that you should not be clocked in when working. You should be clocked in and paid at your usual rate during training meetings, crew meetings, disciplinary hearings (whether of yourself or another employee you are accompanying) and while your till is being cashed up. In short, while you are working, you should be paid. Not a complicated notion but one that McManagers sometimes struggle with. If you are unable to work for some reason not relating to yourself (the store has to close during a bomb threat for example), then you should be paid. True story- a store in London was evacuated because of a bomb threat and the managers made all the crew go back inside to clock out!

You are not entitled to be paid for the time it takes you to travel to work (unfortunately) but if having arrived at work you subsequently have to travel to a different store, then you are entitled to be paid for your time and any expenses you incur.


If you are ever offered a bonus (to work an extra shift for example) then we strongly recommend you insist on signed written confirmation or you will probably never receive anything.

Wage Deductions

Do not accept any deductions from your wages to pay for cash shortages or anything else. There is no legal basis for such deductions.

Minimum Wage

Since the 1 st of October 2003, the national minimum wage has been set at £3.80 for 18-21 year olds and £4.50 for those aged 22 and above. If you are under 18 then you have no rights, can't vote (it's a waste of time anyway) but at least you get to pay tax. The minimum wage is expected to increase again in October 2004. It probably wont help you much since it is set at a level designed not to fuck with big businesses like McDonalds and their incessant quest for profit. However, if you turn 22 and are earning less than £4.50, make sure your wage goes up. If it isn't put up immediately, make sure the difference is back paid.

Sick Pay

You are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay ("SSP") if you are off sick for four or more days in a row, including weekends and holidays and you normally earn more than £77 a week. It is not payable for the first three days in any period of entitlement but thereafter is payable at a flat weekly rate, £64.35 per week. You are entitled to receive a percentage of that basic rate depending on how many ‘qualifying days' you have been sick for. If you work six days a week and you are ill for two full weeks, then the first week you would be entitled to £27.58 as your first three days of sickness would not count. During the second week you would have six qualifying days so you would be entitled to the mighty sum of £64.35, which you could then invest in a chain of ice cream parlours. For periods of illness between four days and a week, you can ‘self-certify', but if you are off for any longer than that you will need a doctors note. There is no minimum period of service required for entitlement to SSP. SSP can last for a maximum of 28 weeks. If you are due it, make sure they pay it! If you're not due it… see if you can make them pay it all the same!

Holiday Pay

You have the right to four weeks paid holiday per year, or proportionally for part of a year. If you work 5 days a week you are entitled to 20 paid days holiday per. Under the regulations you cannot carry untaken holidays forward to the next year. So be sure to use them up! If you're employment is terminated during the course of a year and you have not yet taken your holidays then you are entitled to whatever holiday pay you have accrued. For example, if you work six days a week for three months and then quit without ever taking a paid holiday, you would be entitled to 6 days pay at you usual rate. Again, if you are due it, make sure they pay it!

Maternity/ paternity Pay

If you have a sprog you are entitled to paid leave according to statutory provisions. For more information see:

Have you been illegally disciplined or fired?

Disciplinary Procedure

Your crew handbook forms part of your contract of employment. As such, the terms contained within are legally binding. With regards to discipline, this means that the company is obliged to follow its own disciplinary procedures, except where a single act is cause for summary dismissal. If they want to sack you for lateness, it will be unfair dismissal if they have never given you a warning before. Did you really get a formal written warning? Probably not given that McDonalds managers are overworked and don’t care that much. Were you really retrained on cash handling procedures, were you ever trained in the first place? A note on disciplinary action that results from cash irregularities- if someone else used your till, even once, then you should not accept any disciplinary measure.

Right to be accompanied

You have the right to be accompanied at any disciplinary hearing by another company employee OF YOUR CHOICE. If the person you choose happens not to be at work on the day they want to give you your discipline, then you can make them wait for up to five days until that person is available. By which time they will probably have forgotten all about it!

Written explanation of dismissal

If you have been employed for more than a year then you are entitled to a written explanation if you are dismissed. Great.

Wrongful and Unfair Dismissal

There are numerous reasons why a dismissal could be deemed wrongful or not, but broadly a dismissal is not wrongful where the employer can prove a valid reason, i.e. the worker was a lazy fuck. However, such a dismissal may still be deemed unfair if the proper procedures were not followed. The law is specific that it is illegal to discipline workers for, amongst other things, demanding their rights, for having children, for whistle blowing or joining a trade union.

Safety at work

Unsafe practices (general)

Under Health and Safety law you have a legal right to refuse to do any task that you think may cause you imminent danger. For example, if there is equipment that has frayed wires and is unsafe, you are within your rights to refuse to use it. If they try to make you then you may be able to claim for constructive dismissal.

Dangerous tasks

Certain jobs like filtering and compacting are regarded as dangerous. You do not have to perform them unless you have been properly trained. In the instance of filtering, you do not have to do it unless all the equipment is present and in a functioning state. If the visor is broken, then fuck em, don't do it. It's a pain in the ass job anyway.

Phoning in sick

You have a legal responsibility to stay off work if you have a communicable illness (one folk are likely to catch off you if you go to work). So the next time you phone in sick and they try and force you to come in, remind them they are trying to force you to break the law and are in breach of their legal obligations.

Accidents at work

If you are injured at work or your work is making you sick, you may be able to make a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, the courts are unlikely to award you money because your job depresses you and makes you want to hang yourself.

Hours of work


You have no guaranteed hours of work. You have, in fact, only a few more rights than the people who built the pyramids. However, if everyone else is scheduled 6 days a week and you are scheduled none, and there is no good reason why this should be the case, then this may be an example of victimisation. However, if they suddenly cut everybody’s hours completely and the entire payroll can’t pay their rent, that’s OK, because everybody is getting shafted equally, which is what freedom and democracy is all about… apparently.


Your employment contract (crew handbook) stipulates when the schedule will be posted- “no later than 5.00pm on the Thursday before”. In reality, at many restaurants it may not be posted until Saturday or Sunday. To our understanding of the law (and we could be wrong, the law is after all an ass), you are under no obligation to turn up to work if the schedule was posted after the stipulated time and you happen to have made an alternative arrangement. “Sorry, won’t be in on Tuesday, I’ve arranged to go to the pub with some mates” is a line everybody should use at least once during their McCareer. Explain that you had been waiting to make plans all week and couldn’t delay any more.

Work Times Regulations

Your standard working week cannot be longer than 48 hours unless you have given signed consent. If they are trying to get you to work 40 hours a week, and you only want to do 32, tell them you have another job and work there 18 hours a week!

Rest Periods

You are legally entitled to a minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours between shifts. So, if you finish a close at 2.00am and are scheduled to start at noon the next day, you do not have to come in until 1.00pm. If you are under 18 then this rest period is extended to 12 hours.
Additionally, you are entitle to an "uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in each seven-day period or if you are under 18, you are entitled to a delicious 48 consecutive hours away from that shit hole. If you are over 18, instead of giving you your 24 consecutive hours, they can make you work 12 days in a row but then give you 48 consecutive hours to recover enough to go back and make them more money.
These rest periods are in addition to the 11/12 hours you are entitled to each day. So if you finish at 5.00pm on Wednesday it would not count as a 24 hour rest period if you are scheduled to work again at 5.00pm on Thursday.


Possibly the only area where McDonalds provision exceeds the most basic legal requirement, McDonalds break allowances are longer than the legal minimum and form part of your contract of employment:
3-4 hours: 15 minutes
4-5 hours: 30 minutes
5-10 hours: 45 minutes
Over 10 hours: 45 minutes and then another 20 minutes
If you work for between 3 and 4 hours and take a 15-minute break then you do not have to clock out, so make sure you don’t!

Time off

You are entitled to reasonable time off to care for a dependent relative. So if you have a kid that gets sick and you cant come to work and they complain as fucking usual, threaten them with an employment tribunal.
You are also entitled to time off with pay to attend the funeral of an immediate relative (not sure if it stretches to a wake or reception). Freedom isn’t it wonderful? If your old man pops it you get to see him buried, even if McDonalds are left short of a grill person.
True story, a guy wrote to us, said he was working the night before his wedding when a manager demanded he did an extra night shift the next day. “Ha, you’re forgetting, tomorrow’s my big day, I’m getting married!”
“Yeah I know, but that’ll be over by 6.00”!


You are entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday a year. Of course you can’t choose when, but if you ask nicely, you never know. Another true story, two FMs were going out together and for two years they were forbidden to take a holiday at the same time. Eventually they thought ‘fuck them’ and booked a week in Spain. They broke up two months before they were due to go. See holiday pay for more information.

Sunday Shifts

Fed up going to work on a Sunday with a hangover? If you provide 3 months notice you can legally opt out of working on a Sunday. Who said religion had no use?

Compulsory overtime/ “staying on”

Hmmm, this one deserves a section all of its own...

Compulsory overtime/ “staying on”

If you are scheduled to finish work at 5.00pm, does your manager have the legal right to demand at 4.00pm that you work until 8.00pm? You would think not, but the best that can be said is that this is a grey area. Incredibly, there is no specific law against the abhorrence that is compulsory unannounced overtime. However, nor is there any law stipulating that workers must perform overtime.

McDonalds would argue that their right to cancel your plans whenever they think they might be short of a fry person is enshrined in your employment contract, where it says, “on occasions you may be asked to continue working past your normal finishing time; you will be released (sic) as soon as the need for your services has passed”. McDonald’s probably have too much money for any court to accept the argument that they asked and you declined.

One of the reasons why it is a grey area is because article four of the human rights act 1998 states that “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.” However, it also states that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude” which suggests that if it was worth the paper it was written on, nobody would have to work for McDonalds at all. In fact, we could probably close down McDonalds on the basis that article 3 stipulates that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Seriously, the document is so pissy because having stated that, “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour”, it goes on to provide a list of exemptions including every conceivable way in which we might be forced to do forced, compulsory labour, ending with the catch all “any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations”. McDonalds have too much money to lose a case like that.

However, legal or not, compulsory overtime is a stain on humanity and you should never put up with it. Managers don’t really know whether they can force you to stay on or not either. We found that the best way to deal with an “I’ll need you to stay until eight” demand was to laugh loudly and explain you have something else to do, like picking your toenails. Resist it, resist work by all means necessary!