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09/14/2021

Retail Industry Reacts to Employer Vaccine Mandate

In light of President Biden’s sweeping COVID-19 Action Plan, which will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly, the retail industry’s leading entities are responding to the mandate.
Vaccine card

Overall, many of the industry’s trade associations are echoing similar sentiments — they’re skeptical, cautiously optimistic and left with many questions about the Biden administration’s “colossal” undertaking.

Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) president Brian Dodge said in a new media release: “While we await more details about the requirements, it is essential that the administration understand that requiring large employers to mandate vaccination of all employees or produce a negative test is a colossal undertaking. Coordination with industry and all levels of government is essential to avoid a chaotic and counterproductive situation. Further, testing capacity is already stressed and must be scaled immensely to meet the enormous demand that will result from these new requirements.”

Dodge added, “We urge the administration to keep the goal of these new requirements, beating the virus through vaccinations, at the forefront of the rulemaking process. Demonstrated good faith by employers to comply with the new rules should be appreciated and not punished.”  

The Consumer Brands Association also supports the goal of the mandate, though is doubling down on whose responsibility it thinks that is.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government has often failed to implement well-intentioned policy,” president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a media release. “President Biden’s announcement prompts critical questions that require immediate clarification. As with other mandates, the devil is in the details. Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply.”

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) vice president of government relations and workforce development Edwin Egee told Path to Purchase IQ: “Since the beginning of this pandemic, retailers large and small have operated safely with strict health protocols to protect employees and consumers, ensuring jobs were saved and communities were served. Nothing has changed that commitment.” He added that the industry will continue to encourage Americans to “voluntarily” protect themselves and families by getting vaccinated.

“Several of our members have implemented policies mandating vaccinations for some or all of their employees, while others are offering monetary incentives and paid time off," Egee said. "We appreciate the administration’s commitment to ensuring workplaces are safe despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. We look forward to working with the Labor Department as it promulgates this rule.”

Some retailer-led initiatives to encourage employees and shoppers to get vaccinated that were introduced shortly after vaccines became widely available in the country included:

  • Dollar General offering frontline hourly team members a one-time payment equivalent to four hours of regular pay after receiving a completed COVID-19 vaccination and salaried team members additional store labor hours to accommodate their time away from the store. The chain also worked with its distribution and transportation teams to make similar accommodations.
  • Target offering a similar incentive, while also providing all U.S. team members with free Lyft rides (up to $15 each way) to get to and from their appointments.
  • Publix offering its associates a $125 Publix gift card after getting fully vaccinated.
  • CVS Pharmacy encouraged shoppers to get vaccinated with a #OneStepCloser sweepstakes dangling social trips and other prizes from participating CPG manufacturers and other sponsors over the summer, in addition to its ongoing vaccine distribution efforts.
  • Tractor Supply Company offering a one-time payment of $50 and time off as needed for all team members who receive the vaccine. The company also partnered with a third-party provider to facilitate onsite vaccination clinics at its eight distribution centers and store support center.
  • Lidl offering $200 in extra pay to all U.S. employees who receive the vaccine.

In addition to the pending vaccine requirement made possible through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Biden also announced that the government will work to increase the supply of virus tests, and that the White House has made agreements with retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell at-home testing kits at cost beginning this week.