Ted Baker has launched an independent inquiry follow the creation a petition by members of staff who allege they have been subjected to unwanted hugs and harassment from CEO and founder Ray Kelvin.
Following the petition, which was created on the Organise platform and which was backed by 200 staff, the company has issued a statement to say the matter is being investigated.
The company said that “hugs are part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon” and added that the claims made against Kelvin were “entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our chief executive officer, we take them very seriously.”
Kelvin is known for his eccentricities, such as refusing to show his full face in photographs, and staff have said that 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.”
One member of staff who signed the petition claimed: “He once came and started massaging my shoulders and kissed me on the neck. I was a 21 year old girl and it was my first ever ‘proper’ job.”
Through the Organise platform some 50 allegations of harassment have been made and staff say that complaints to HR were often batted away with the explanation that it’s “just what [Kelvin] is like”.
“Pursuing the issue through the ‘proper’ channels i.e. Human Resources, is hopelessly ineffective. It’s time to break the silence,” the author of the petition wrote.
Ted Baker insisted that it had “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.”
Kelvin founded Ted Baker, named after his alter ego, just over 30 years ago as a men’s shirt specialist. It has since grown into a global lifestyle brands covering categories such as menswear, womenswear, kidswear, homewares, stationery, fragrance and watches.
The FTSE250 company is due to update the market on its Q3 figures this Thursday with analysts expecting to see the combination of unseasonable weather, Brexit and falling consumer confidence to take its toll on the brand, which has thus far proved to be a robust performer.