MILAN — As summer comes to an end and companies are mapping out their back-to-work plans, Prada Group issued a note to its Italian employees asking them to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or recovery from the virus to access its facilities.
Starting Sept. 6, Prada employees will be required to demonstrate they hold the so-called Green Pass, the European certification released to citizens who have either undergone the vaccination or recovered from the coronavirus in the past six months.
The requirement applies to the luxury brand’s workers in Milan and in the Tuscany region, where the company operates manufacturing plants. Employees lacking immunization will be tested periodically by the company with the cost for this demanding diagnostic operation to be borne in full by Prada.
“In this phase of the pandemic, the Prada Group deems the vaccination campaign as decisive to overcome the health emergency and create safe workspaces and conditions,” Prada Group said in a statement. “To this end the Green Pass can be considered as a protection and a means of safety for all employees,” it added.
The company stressed that the main goal of the measure, which was shared with the internal trade unions’ representatives, is to “guarantee safe workspaces, leveraging all available means of protection and preventions provided by the health authorities.”
The move comes at a time when the Italian government is debating whether to extend the Green Pass mandatory requirement to employees of all public and private businesses operating in the country, compelling workers to prove that they are somehow immunized against the coronavirus.
As of now, the proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease is required only to access the companies’ canteens and a decision on its extension to the other workspaces is expected from the government before Sept. 30
Prada’s decision to accelerate on and anticipate the government’s measure received mixed feedback from trade unions. In particular, Tuscany-based trade unions Filctem Cgil and Femca Cisl issued a note expressing full support to a mass vaccination campaign to guarantee that workplaces are safe enough for each and every employee, but argued that the determination of the workers’ access to the facilities “should be regulated by law” and that this issue “cannot be handed to the discretionary [decisions] of each company. The trade union will guarantee that all regulations be applied and that no employee is discriminated against.”
Prada Group has also announced that its occupational physicians will assess the level of immunization of the company to evaluate potential epidemiological risks. This falls within the group’s commitment toward the health and safety of its employees demonstrated since the onset of the pandemic.
Upon reopening its facilities in April 2020, the group introduced a safety protocol that involved the double screening of its workforce. A team of specialist nurses in dedicated rooms carried out serological testing on all employees for a total of about 4,000 tests, and those testing positive also received a viral test, again conducted on the premises.
As set out in the internal safety protocol signed by the company, employee health and safety representatives, the medical coordinator and the Health and Safety service, additional measures involved temperature check on arrival at the premises, the distribution of two facemasks per day and the reorganization of the internal layouts. Since last fall, Prada Group has also started tracing and screening activities at the facilities via antigenic swabs.
Along with other fashion companies including Gucci, OTB, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna and OVS, Prada Group has also been active in setting up vaccination centers at its premises.
The Italian luxury brand is not the only one having expressed concern for the health of its employees as a result of no-vax choices. In June, Brunello Cucinelli expressed his worries about the small percentage of employees who will choose not to be vaccinated. His decision was to ask non-vaccinated workers to stay at home with a paid leave for six months.
“But what will happen after that? I feel I am a custodian of the company and it’s not my job to try and convince them to get their injections, but this is an ethical, moral, civil and religious problem,” he said at the time.
Contacted by WWD on Thursday, a company spokesperson said no additional initiatives were taken for the time being.
Meanwhile Carlo Bonomi, president of Confindustria, the association grouping Italian industrialists, said last week that all involved parties should discuss a go-forward plan, reprimanding trade unions for sitting out the conversation.
“For Confindustria, a mandatory vaccination in the workplaces and school is dutiful and the Green Pass compulsory. It’s too easy to blame the government, there are different positions among the different parties, which would likely delay the passing of a law. However, we can update our safety protocols. I’m adamant to sit down with the trade unions even today, we are a community,” he said.