Ted Baker employees have launched a petition alleging that founder and boss Ray Kelvin engages in inappropriate behaviour towards staff included enforced hugs.

The petition, which was launched on workplace website Organise and has gained over 2,000 signatures including 200 from members of the retailer’s staff, alleges behaviour by Kelvin ranging from kissing employees’ ears to asking female staff members to sit on his knee.

The petition says that “harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but wilfully ignored by those in charge”.

The authors of the petition have asked that a means of “reporting harassment to an independent, external body” be put in place as an alternative to the retailer’s human resources department, which it claims has “done nothing with the reports of harassment” to date.

The petition alleges that many former employees have exited the business as a result of Kelvin’s behaviour and the surrounding company culture.

It also says that the “positive things about working at Ted Baker” are “often overshadowed” by “underlying awkwardness about the ‘hugging’ and inappropriate comments”.

Ted Baker, which will post its third-quarter results on Thursday, has said the allegations in the petition are “at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO” and the retailer would “ensure a thorough independent investigation is carried out”.