Ted Baker staff launch petition complaining over founder Ray Kelvin's 'forced hugging'

Willy Barton  Shutterstock

United Kingdom fashion retailer Ted Baker has appointed an independent committee of non-executive directors to investigate workplace harassment claims that current chief executive and founder Ray Kelvin expected staff to hug him and sit on his lap when visiting stores.

Employees of the high-end British clothing company Ted Baker have launched a petition alleging that the company culture allows "harassment to go unchallenged".

Ted Baker said yesterday that an independent committee of non-executive directors had been appointed to ensure that the views and concerns mentioned in the petition are considered and appropriate responses are taken.

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Ted Baker distributes across five continents via its own retail stores, wholesale and licensing.

Kelvin's net worth is now estimated at $650 million, according to British newspaper The Sunday Times' annual Rich List.

"Ray greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague", the company said in a statement.

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"It's very uncomfortable and unnecessary, a simple handshake can be okay".

Anonymous testimonies gathered by the site include several claims that Mr Kelvin massaged, kissed or inappropriately touched members of staff.

Ted Baker is also having to cope with the fallout of the collapse of House of Fraser, where it has a string of concessions.

"It is critically important to us that every member of our staff feels valued and respected at work", it said.

The company said that it was now "in dialogue" with Organise in order to "understand the details and nature of the claims". "We will then carefully consider the content and recommendations of that report".

It promised that a "thorough independent investigation" into the claims would be carried out.

Those behind the petition say when they have reported issues to HR, they are told: "That's just what he's like".

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