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Smoking jackets

4 February, 2022

No, we don’t mean the velvet aristocratic kind. Carhartt, the Michigan-based workwear company, has been feeling the heat as customers started burning much loved Carhartt clothes, as #boycottcarhartt trended on social media. The reaction comes after Carhartt’s CEO announced that it will keep its vaccination requirement for employees, despite a Supreme Court decision to block a federal vaccination-or-test mandate for large businesses.

Carhartt says the decision is “part of our longstanding commitment to workplace safety”, and they’re right that getting employees vaccinated is key to this. As we move from pandemic to endemic, we need to increase vaccination rates as much as possible. Brands and companies are a key player in delivering that outcome and many are currently silent, or could be construed as actively undermining the effort (see Spotify’s lack of action on Joe Rogan’s anti-vax podcast).

But our view is that in taking a stand, it’s better to do so positively rather than implementing rules. On this issue, as with others, this might mean having a dialogue with employees to fully understand the barriers, offering access to sources of information that are trusted by the people that need persuading, and finding ways to provide opportunities to support healthy decisions – for example, can you offer time off for people to get vaccinated, or bring vaccination to them to make it even easier?

Progressive companies look to build employer-employee relationships around trust, respect and shared responsibility. This might end up being the best way to drive the uptake we all want.

By Alice Railton

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