UK 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.
“Ray, and the company’s leadership, have always prided themselves on Ted Baker being a great employer and business to work with,” the company said in a response to media reports about the claims and a petition started by staff members to stop the behaviour.
“Accordingly, they and the board take these concerns very seriously and the board has directed a thorough and urgent independent external investigation carried out into these matters.”
Organise, a website that allows employees to speak out against what they see in the workplace, and where Ted Baker staff initially spoke out about the workplace harassment, was contacted by leadership at the retailer who said they’re “open to changing the way we do things” when it comes to hugs.
“Together our pressure exposed what was happening at the highest level. Now, over 100 anonymised reports of harassment are sat with Ted Baker’s board,” Organise said in a blog post about the matter.
In an interview with Retail Week, Kelvin explained that he hugs people because his psoriatic arthritis makes it painful to shake hands, and took offence when it was suggested that people would be uncomfortable doing so.
“You can’t expect my life to change because today people are particular about certain things that we grew up quite naturally with,” Kelvin explained, calling it “good old-fashioned stuff.”
“Plenty of people might have sat on Ted Baker’s knee.”
This story first appeared on our sister site Inside Retail Australia.