Staff members of Ted Baker have set up an online petition to call for a halt to a culture of “various forms of harassment” such as “forced hugging” by company’s bossThe employees claim that harassment that is going unchallenged and hence set up a petition on campaign website Organise, accusing founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin of inappropriate language and behaviour.
Mr Kelvin, 62, has been accused of making “sexual innuendos at staff” and “stroking people’s necks”.
And alleges: “He took off his shirt on one occasion and talked about his sex life. So many people have left the business due to harassment, whether that be verbal, physical or sexual.”
“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.”
It has become a part of the company culture to receive hugs and many a times he has forced employees to do a lot more, one of the petition writers stated: “I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him or let him massage their ears. I went to HR with a complaint and was told ‘that’s just what Ray’s like’.
“Please set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body – HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment to date.”
Millionaire Mr Kelvin worth £522m, is one of Britain’s most successful retail tycoons. The firm currently running 544 fashion outlets worldwide.
Earlier this year, the accounting watchdog fined KPMG £3m after the firm admitted misconduct in its audits of Ted Baker in 2013 and 2014.
The company said the matters raised in the petition were “at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO” and it promised a thorough independent investigation.
It said in a statement: “Ted Baker has always placed great importance on the company’s culture and owes everything to the commitment of our people. It is critically important to us that every member of our staff feels valued and respected at work.
“Ray greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague. Hugs have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon.”
“Having very recently been made aware of the petition, we are now in dialogue with Organise to understand the details and nature of the claims.”
Despite the employees stating that Ted Baker’s HR staff did not take any action the firm has released a statement that they have clear and robust HR policies to provide employees with a wide range of reporting options for issues, including a “completely confidential and anonymous 24/7 helpline”.
“The company said it takes the claims very seriously and after an investigation would carefully consider the content and recommendations of that report.”