An online campaign by Ted Baker employees has called on the company to end “forced hugging” and “a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged”.
Staff accused founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin, of inappropriate language and behaviour, and making “sexual innuendos at staff”.
“I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears,” one Ted Baker employee reported on the petition platform Organise. “Lots of forced overly long hugs and kisses on the cheek, hand stroking, unsolicited massaging of employees shoulders.
“I have also heard firsthand accounts of people being asked to sit on his lap or having had their legs stroked under the table in meeting,” said another.
Over 100 anonymised reports of harassment are now with Ted Baker’s board as a result of the petition.
It is part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged
“Ray greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague,” the company responded in a statement.
“Hugs have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon,” it added.
The workers claim the company ignored all previous complaints. “It is part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged,” the petition says, adding: “There are a lot of really positive things about working at Ted Baker but they’re often overshadowed by the ‘hugging’ and inappropriate touching and comments. HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment to date.”
Responding to the claims, a statement from Ted Baker announced that an independent investigation into the complaints would be carried out.
“Ray, and the Company’s leadership, have always prided themselves on Ted Baker being a great employer and business to work with. Accordingly, they and the Board take these concerns very seriously and the Board has directed that a thorough and urgent independent external investigation is carried out into these matters.”
There was no direct comment from Kelvin himself, who owns around 35% of the company.
Kelvin, 62, who opened his first store called “Ted Baker” (named after a fictitious alter ego) in 1988, is one of Britain’s most successful retail tycoons. The firm now has 544 fashion outlets worldwide.