In May 2005 Fairhurst joined McDonald’s Restaurants as vice-president of people – the first time McDonald’s had appointed an HR professional at this level in the UK.
In January 2007, he was promoted to senior vice-president, chief people officer (Northern Europe),with responsibility for HR, training, education, customer services and environment.
In January 2011 he was further promoted to the newly created position of chief people officer, Europe with responsibility for all people strategies and practices for more than 6,900 restaurants employing over 375,000 people in 39 countries. In 2015 he was promoted again to chief people officer, McDonald's.
Fairhurst is a chartered companion of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, where he is currently serving as its vice president of learning, training and development. He is the chairman of People 1st; a fellow of the RSA; a fellow of Lancaster University Business School; chair of the advisory board to the Centre for Professional Personnel and Development (CPPD); and a fellow of the Sunningdale Institute – a virtual academy of leading academics and thought-leaders created to advise and advance public service.
In 2007, Fairhurst was awarded an honorary doctorate in business administration by Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, where he is a visiting professor; and in 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in business administration by Middlesex University Business School.
In 2008, David received the Institute of Internal Communications’ Business communicator of the year award – a title previously given to leading business luminaries such as Justin King, Richard Branson and Anita Roddick. He was the first HR professional to receive this prestigious award.
In 2011, David was appointed to act as a commissioner for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills by business secretary,Vince Cable.
He frequently appears on television and radio, and as a speaker at public and private events.