Ted Baker staff complain of ‘forced hugs’ by company founder

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British fashion chain Ted Baker said it would investigate claims against chief executive and founder Ray Kelvin relating to his habit of hugging business colleagues.

Using the employee campaign platform Organize, over 200 Ted Baker employees launched the petition and calling for others who experienced harassment at Ted Baker to share their experience.

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Ted Baker has not yet responded to CNN's request for comment, but it issued a statement to the UK's Press Association news agency.

Mr Kelvin is worth £522m according to the Sunday Times Rich List. "It's very uncomfortable and unnecessary, a simple handshake can be okay", another says.

One said: "I've seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears". The petition claims that attempts to resolve the issue with the company's human resources department have unsuccessful stating, "Harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but wilfully ignored by those in charge", the petition says.

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The petition goes on to demand that the company put an end to the "awkward hugging policy" whereby the "CEO always wants a hug from every member of staff".

In a statement released on Monday, the company confirmed that an external investigation is to take place at the request of the board.

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

"An independent committee of the non-executive directors has been appointed to ensure that the views and concerns are recognised and carefully considered and that appropriate responses are taken forward".

Several of the 64 respondents to a survey said they had reported the behaviour to HR but had been told "that's just what Ray's like".

Kelvin opened the first Ted Baker store in Glasgow, Scotland in 1988 selling men's shirts. It has since grown to boast 544 outlets selling clothing and accessories worldwide.

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