‘Hugs cul­ture’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion at Ted Baker sees share fall

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY ALYS KEY

TED Baker’s work­ing prac­tices are to be­come the sub­ject of an ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion as the com­pany’s share price hits a three-year low.

The Lon­don-listed stock was down as much as 15.4% in early trad­ing on Mon­day, af­ter a pe­ti­tion emerged over the week­end calling on the lux­ury cloth­ing re­tailer to “end ha­rass­ment” and ac­cus­ing its founder of en­forc­ing a “hug­ging” cul­ture.

The chain op­er­ates one store in North­ern Ire­land, at Belfast’s Vic­to­ria Square Shop­ping Cen­tre, as well as a con­ces­sion in House of Fraser.

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

In ad­di­tion, a com­mit­tee of non-ex­ec­u­tive direc­tors has been ap­pointed to for­mu­late a re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions.

Shares were down 13% at 1,588p at lunchtime on Mon­day.

It comes ahead of a trad­ing up­date on Thurs­day, when the com­pany is ex­pected to de­tail another chal­leng­ing quar­ter as con­sumer con­fi­dence in the UK and eu­ro­zone re­mains low.

In an on­line pe­ti­tion posted to a site called Or­gan­ise, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Ray Kelvin is ac­cused of forc­ing hug­ging on col­leagues, as well as ask­ing young fe­male staff to “sit on his knee, cud­dle him, or let him mas­sage their ears”.

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

The firm said in a state­ment: “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.”

Ac­cord­ing to Or­gan­ise, more than 100 Ted Baker staff have sub­mit­ted sto­ries of ha­rass­ment.

Anony­mous tes­ti­monies gath­ered by the site in­clude sev­eral claims that Mr Kelvin mas­saged, kissed or in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched mem­bers of staff.

Oth­ers sug­gest a wider cul­ture of ha­rass­ment at the com­pany, in­clud­ing one ac­cu­sa­tion of wolf-whistling lev­elled at a man­ager and in­ac­tion on the part of HR and se­nior man­age­ment.

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”.

Ted Baker re­sponded by say­ing it has “very clear and ro­bust HR poli­cies”.

The com­pany 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 and will en­sure that a thor­ough in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion is car­ried out.

“We will then care­fully con­sider the con­tent and rec­om­men­da­tions of that re­port.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.