Ted Baker founder is being accused of sexual harassment

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Ted Baker's founder Ray Kelvin has found himself under fire after staff launched an online petition to stop a culture of "forced hugging" at the company.

"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.

The petition, published on the workplace campaign platform Organise, urged the company's board of directors to end this "awkward hugging culture".

The petition notes that several staffers have left the company due to Kelvin's alleged verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, and that reporting the instances through the proper channels, like Human Resources, was "hopelessly ineffective" as reports went ignored.

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In a new statement, it said there would be "a thorough and urgent independent external investigation" done by an independent committee, as the petition requested.

One complainant wrote: "I've seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears".

Through Organise, over 50 current and former Ted Baker employees have anonymously reported incidents of harassment by Kelvin.

The petition had attracted 1,890 signatures by Sunday night.

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"The general feeling inside Ted Baker is that there's no official way to address the issue of harassment", it added.

But the company says hugs are "part of Ted Baker's culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon".

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

Shares of Ted Baker, which operates almost 500 stores worldwide, plunged 15 percent on the London Stock Exchange to a five-year low on the news.

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Mr Kelvin, who is estimated to be worth £522m, greets many business cohorts with a hug, it continued, "be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague".

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