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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Wood


Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Several of our clients have asked us for some clarity about the legal requirement for staff to wear face coverings since the Government announced the changes earlier this week. As usual the guidance is not always crystal clear and open to interpretation, but here is what we believe is correct.



A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. This means buying reusable or single-use face coverings or using a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face. When used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of Coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others. It must be noted that face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing; these measures must still be in place.


In England, from Friday 24 July,  face coverings must be worn by the public, by law, on Public transport and in shops and supermarkets. The public are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet – this could be in an enclosed shopping mall, pub / restaurant / café / takeaway.   As of the 22nd September, staff working in shops / supermarkets / pubs / restaurants / cafés / takeaways also have to wear a face covering alongside other systems of control including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other. Face coverings do not have to be worn in back of house areas, where customers are not present.


There are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances:

  • young children under the age of 11

  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to

  • to take medication

  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

  • If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification

Shops and supermarkets will be expected to encourage compliance with the law (as they would do more generally for other COVID-19 measures) and can refuse entry if people are not wearing a face covering. The police have the powers to enforce these measures, including through issuing a fine of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days).


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