TikTok is investigating claims it has an “aggressive” and “toxic” workplace culture and that a senior executive said he didn’t believe in maternity leave.
The social media company, which has operated in the UK only since September 2021, faces allegations of a culture clash between the way in which its Chinese parent company ByteDance operates from that of its TikTok offices across Europe.
According to a Financial Times report that published excerpts from internal emails, Joshua Ma, who leads a Europe division at ByteDance, allegedly told colleagues he “didn’t believe” in maternity leave and will be “taking some time off”. His role will be overseen by Patrick Nommensen, a senior director of ecommerce operations, who led the UK launch.
Ma made the comments at a dinner with employees of TikTok’s ecommerce team in the UK. TikTok staff reportedly complained of unrealistic targets and expectations that do not align with UK working practices, and that team relationships were “built on fear, not co-operation”.
TikTok said that maternity leave for UK employees is 30 weeks of paid leave (at an average of 90% of earnings), nine weeks with statutory maternity pay and 13 weeks of unpaid leave.
A spokesperson said: “We are investigating alleged statements and actions to determine whether there has been a breach of company policies."
In terms of TikTok’s work-life balance, the spokesperson added: "As with many service businesses, employees in some functions may at times need to work hours that match customer use patterns.
"We aim to make this the exception rather than the norm, and support our team with flexible working hours, regular no-meeting times, and robust health and wellbeing offerings.”
The FT investigation was based on the testimony of 10 current and former TikTok employees.
It said the launch of TikTok’s livestream shopping feature in the UK had led to a staff exodus from its London ecommerce team.
Staff told the FT they were often required to work more than 12 hours a day, with early-morning calls to China and late live-streamed events.
Some team members have apparently been moved from client accounts after going on annual leave.
Campaign understands that it is common for TikTok teams to collaborate with colleagues across time zones, including Asia-Pacific, where the business has its headquarters and use of TikTok is high.
The business said there are internal communications tools to flag when colleagues join calls that are outside their business hours, and that it is “investing significantly” in rapid expansion of resources, structures and processes “to enhance the overall experience for TikTok Shop employees”.