McDonald's, home to the McMuffin and the McNugget, is fed up with being home to the McJob.

The UK arm of the fast food chain is starting a campaign to get British dictionary publishers to revise their definitions of the word "McJob", a term the Oxford English Dictionary describes as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector".

The word first emerged in the US in the 1980s to describe low-skilled jobs in the fast food industry but was popularised by the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland, in his 1991 novel Generation X. It appeared in the online version of the OED in March 2001. McDonald's plans a "high-profile public petition" this year to get it changed.

"We believe that it is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day," wrote David Fairhurst, chief people officer in northern Europe for McDonald's, in a letter seen by the Financial Times seeking support for the petition. "It's time the dictionary definition of "McJob" changed to reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression and skills that last a lifetime."

McDonald's says it has an excellent record of promoting female workers and entry level staff to senior executive positions. In the UK, half the executive team started on the shop floor and 25 per cent are women.

Its employment record was praised recently when Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine named it the "best place to work in hospitality". It was also the first large employer to be accredited under the UK government's revamped Investors in People scheme. Yet outsiders still think it is a poor employer.

The OED may be amenable to McDonald's pleas: "We monitor changes in the language and reflect these in our definitions, according to the evidence we find," a spokeswoman said yesterday.

In 2003 Jim Cantalupo, then McDonald's chief executive, called the unflattering definition "a slap in the face" for anyone who worked in the restaurant and catering business.

There was talk of legal action against dictionary publishers but the company later backed down.

A McDonald's recruitment campaign in the UK last year featured slogans such as "McProspects - over half of our executive team started in our restaurants. Not bad for a McJob."