TikTok says it is investigating remarks allegedly made by a senior executive disparaging the concept of maternity leave, amid reports he is stepping back from his role.
Joshua Ma, the head of the company’s e-commerce division across Europe, told staff that as a “capitalist”, he “didn’t believe” firms should offer maternity leave, according to a report in the Financial Times on Wednesday.
In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said: “We are investigating alleged statements and actions to determine whether there has been a breach of company policies.”
According to the FT, Ma will “take some time off” and “step back” from his current UK-based role.
Ma’s comments were reported in the context of the choppy launch the company’s TikTok Shop service, which arrived in the UK in October. The feature, which allows TikTok creators to host a QVC-style live shopping experience, is part of a successful offering on TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin.
But while Douyin users, as well as users of TikTok Shop in the various Asian markets where it was first launched, leapt on the service, in the UK it has struggled to gain traction. Hosts and brands are regularly subsidised by TikTok, which supports deep discounts in sales but has failed to garner a regular returning audience.
Worse, those sales with too-good-to-be-true prices are undercut by other items whose prices really are too good to be true: the platform is struggling with a counterfeiting problem, leaving users unclear if a Dyson hairdryer worth £450 is selling for £14 because of a subsidy or a scam.
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“We’re constantly learning, iterating and improving our service, which includes exploring a range of product options, price points, categories and markets,” TikTok said. “We are guided by our community, creators and merchants as to what they look for from the platform, and work to improve our service accordingly.”
The difficulties have led to a reported exodus of staff from the UK operation, with half the 40-member team stepping down in the eight months since the service launched.
“TikTok Shop has only been operating in the UK for a few months and we’re investing rapidly in expanding the resources, structures and process to support a positive employee experience,” the company said.
“Examples include a holistic onboarding programme for new joiners; regular employee surveys to solicit and action direct feedback; and dedicated training, mentorship and recognition programmes to support and celebrate professional development and achievements.”