UK retailer Ted Baker to investigate company "culture of hugs"

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Getty Images

Retail chain Ted Baker's shares have fallen to a three-year low after accusations of enforced hugging by founder Ray Kelvin went public last week.

The allegations came to light as more than 2,500 signed an online petition calling for an end to "forced "hugging" by the CEO", calling it "part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged".

It is due to give a trading update on Thursday.

Ted Baker staff accuse boss of 'awkward' hugs and harassment

More than 300 of the signatories are either current or former members of staff, according to Nat Whalley, CEO of Organise.

"Plenty of people might have sat on Ted Baker's knee". We will then carefully consider the content and recommendations of that report.

In a statement released to United Kingdom press, the company wrote that it is "critically important" that every member of its staff "feels valued and respected at work", adding that hugs are a "part of Ted Baker's culture" but are "not insisted upon".

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Various British media outlets have reported that a staff at the company had alleged there was a culture of "forced hugging" by Kelvin.

While the company denied that hugging was "not insisted upon", it promised to investigate the claims.

Despite a "well documented" pattern of harassment, Ted Baker's human resources department has turned a blind eye to 62-year-old Kelvin's behavior, according to the petitioners on Organise, a UK-based worker advocacy site. Complaints through official channels fall on deaf ears, they say.

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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.

Ted Baker has always placed great importance on the company's culture and owes everything to the commitment of our people.

"Having very recently been made aware of the petition, we are now in dialogue with [staff] to understand the details and nature of the claims", it added.

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