Ray Kelvin, the founder of the fashion chain Ted Baker, has been criticised by a group of former and current staff for a regime of “forced hugs” and alleged harassment at the retailer’s head office.
More than 60 current or former staff are understood to have come forward to the employee campaigning platform Organise with complaints about Kelvin’s alleged behaviour, including kissing ears and giving unwanted hugs and shoulder massages.
Organise published a petition, signed by more than 1,000 people, calling for an end to forced hugging, saying: “It is part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged.” It also calls for new procedures allowing employees to report harassment to an “independent, external body”.
It is understood the signatories include nearly 200 current or former employees.
The petition also says complaints to Ted Baker’s HR department have been ignored. It says: “Harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but wilfully ignored by those in charge.”
One former member of staff, who said she had not been hugged herself, said: “He would give long hugs: [the office] was a big open space where we all could see. He would hug several people a day and it would be very uncomfortable.”
Ted Baker said it would ensure an independent investigation was carried out and “carefully consider” its findings. “While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously,” the company said.
It added: “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.”
The company said that it was currently “in dialogue” with Organise in order to “understand the details and nature of the claims”.