The fashion label where staff are 'forced to hug the boss'

Atmosphere inside the Ted Baker store during the Ted Baker Wooster VIP Event on Sept. 22 2016 in New York City

Atmosphere inside the Ted Baker store during the Ted Baker Wooster VIP Event on Sept. 22 2016 in New York City

Employees of the high-end British clothing company Ted Baker have launched a petition alleging that the company culture allows "harassment to go unchallenged".

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

The petition website purported to quote several unnamed current and former employees detailing their experiences.

Ted Baker said that an independent committee of non-executive directors had been appointed to ensure that the views and concerns mentioned in the petition are considered and appropriate responses are taken.

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.

The company, which issues a trading update on Thursday, says hugs are "part of Ted Baker's culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon".

However, one former member of staff who spoke to the Sunday Times about their experiences claimed that Kelvin insisted on hugging new recruits when they joined Ted Baker's head office. Complaints through official channels fall on deaf ears, they say.

A petition signed by female staff accuses the 62-year-old businessman of inappropriate behaviour, such as forcing them to hug him and stroking their necks. Meanwhile, company shares were down 13% at 1,588p by lunchtime following reports, according to the Press Association.

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

"Ted Baker staff have known about their CEO's behavior for years, but it's only by working together that they've got the strength to challenge his behavior".

Ted Baker, named after a fictitious alter ego of Mr Kelvin, opened its the first store in Glasgow in 1988 and now has 544 outlets worldwide selling fashion and accessories.

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".