Honey Birdette, an Australian lingerie brand with three stores in the UK, has responded to allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The retailer, which announced its intention to ‘monopolise’ the UK lingerie market following the recent Agent Provocateur buyout earlier this year, said it had recently “strengthened our business policies, procedures and training” in a statement sent to Lingerie Insight.
It comes six months after dozens of former staff and supporters gathered at Honey Birdette’s headquarters, in Sydney’s Surry Hills, to present co-founder and chief executive Eloise Monaghan with a Valentine’s Day “break up” letter as part of a campaign to improve the company’s workplace safety.
Industrial organisation the Young Workers Centre said at the time that hundreds of claims by current and former Honey Birdette staff, overwhelmingly young and female, have been ignored by managers because they see harassment as “part of the job”.
One ex-employee, who declined to give her surname, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Honey Birdette’s workplace culture encouraged staff to tolerate harassment from customers to boost sales.
She alleged that she was one repeatedly whipped by a customer with a riding crop, but received no support, improved security or safety training from her employer after the incident.
She also claimed that staff were encouraged to hand out private phone numbers to clients in the hope of increasing sales.
Other staff have alleged they worked regular eight-hour shifts without toilet and meal breaks.
Responding to the allegations in an emailed statement, Bronwyn Bateman, HR and Payroll manager at Honey Birdette’s Sydney headquarters, said the brand had obtained “expert assistance” from the Australian National Retailers Association as well as the services of a Work Safety Specialist for independent assessment.
She explained that the brand’s policy improvement in the United Kingdom and Australia includes but is not limited to;
- Dealing with Difficult Customers training distributed to all team via our internal online training platform
- Zero Tolerance policy which covers Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Workplace Bullying
- Implementing a Confidential Hotline
- Developments in dress code to include trousers and flat soled shoes
“Most stores are located in highly secure shopping centres, under constant security surveillance,” she continued.
“Honey Birdette is currently rolling out in house video surveillance in our boutiques on a risk assessment basis.
“Team are our number one priority. Honey Birdette encourages and supports team to take a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour,” Bateman added.
“Honey Birdette is focussed on implementing world’s best practice for a safe workplace.”
Honey Birdette, which was founded by Eloise Monaghan in 2006, has 49 stores in Australia.
It opened its first UK boutique in London’s Covent Garden in August 2016 before launching branches in Leeds’ Victoria Gate and Westfield White City.
The brand has a further 10 stores lined up for major UK shopping destinations, including Westfield Stratford, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool, in 2017.
In April, Honey Birdette launched an online store in the US.