More than 1,800 people have signed an online petition urging change inside the fashion group, as there’s a “feeling there’s no way to address the issue of harassment”.
Scores of current and former staff are understood to have gone to employee campaigning platform Organise with complaints about Kelvin's alleged behaviour, reports The Guardian.
Their petition calls upon Ted Baker’s board of directors to scrap the alleged “forced hugs and end harassment.
“Put an end to the awkward ‘hugging’ policy. It’s inappropriate and is part of a culture that allows harassment to go unchallenged.
“Please set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body – HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment. It’s time to break the silence.”
The online platform carries a series of allegations, including from a former Ted Baker employee who claimed: “The CEO always wants a hug from every member of the staff. It’s very uncomfortable and unnecessary, a simple handshake can be okay.”
Those behind the petition explain that it’s important changes are made because “there’s no official way to address the issue of harassment.
“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 petition on Organise also shows an allegation from a Ted Baker employee which states: “I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him or let him massage their ears.”
Ted Baker said it would ensure an independent investigation was conducted.
In a statement the firm added: “While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously.
“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.”
Kelvin has never enjoyed being thrust into the limelight.
Not only does he rarely give interviews, he dislikes having his photo taking, and makes sure that his face is always obscured in images – for example using props such as a hat, shoe, awards and even a taxi sign to hide his full facial features.
In an interview with Vogue five years ago, Kelvin said he began his fashion career working at his uncle’s menswear store at the age of 11, and founded Ted Baker because of his desire to produce well-made clothing that “doesn’t cost the earth”.
He told the publication in 2013: “I hug my colleagues every day. I hug the store staff, everyone.
“They’re all ambassadors for the brand. I make it my business to get to know everyone – I give them all nicknames, so I remember people’s names.
“I want to give them a real career – a teducation as call it. It’s all just one big hug.”
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