The employees at Ted Baker have started a petition that calls for an end to a culture of “forced hugs” and unwanted attention from the founder and boss of the company.
A petition that was launched by employees accuses Ray Kelvin, the chief executive of Ted Baker, of inappropriate comments and behaviour towards some of the employees.
The author of the petition wrote.“He’ll want to brush this under the carpet.”
He added: “But staff won’t be ignored if thousands of us stand with them.”
In a statement to the BBC, the firm said that hugs are “part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon.” It claimed that Kelvin greets many people with hugs.
The company stated: “While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our chief executive officer, we take them very seriously.”
The petition has almost 1,800 signatures. It alleges that Kelvin often makes use of sexual innuendo, and has asked some of the young female employees to sit on his knee or allow him to massage their ears. Kelvin launched the first store of Ted Baker way back in 1988,
The petition is hosted using the platform Organise. It claims to represent 200 of the staff of Ted Baker. It also alleges that there are 50 recorded incidents of harassment at the firm. It says that the human resources department (HR) of the company has not acted on claims, stating: “Many of the staff have reported [Kelvin] to HR, but HR keep saying ‘that’s just what he’s like’.”
It says that Kelvin “tries to massage people around the office, insists on long hugs with staff members, touches them inappropriately and openly asks his staff for sex.”
Ted Baker is listed in the FTSE-250, It is scheduled to issue a trading update on Thursday. The company is named after an alter-ego of Kelvin, an eccentric chief executive who as a quirk, declines to reveal his full face in photos. According to the Rich List of the Sunday Times, Kelvin is worth £552m.
The petition stated: “The general feeling inside Ted Baker is that there’s no official way to address the issue of harassment.”
It added: “That’s why we’re running this campaign.”
It continued: “There are a lot of really positive things about working at Ted Baker but they’re often overshadowed by this underlying awkwardness about the ‘hugging’ and inappropriate comments.”
The company said that it has “very clear and robust HR policies in place to provide all employees with a wide range of reporting options for any issues that they might encounter, including a completely confidential and anonymous, 24/7 helpline.”