Last updated: 13 April 2021
Where are face masks required?
People must wear face coverings in:
- shops and supermarkets
- taxis and public transport, including transport hubs such as train stations and bus stops
- hospitality venues such as restaurants and cafes, when you’re not sitting at your table
- personal care and beauty treatment settings (such as hair salons, tattoo parlours and massage centres)
- visitor attractions and entertainment venues (such as museums, cinemas, theatres and heritage sites)
- places of worship
- public areas in hotels.
For a full list of where masks are required in England and more advice on the law, see Gov.uk advice.
People in Scotland are required to wear face coverings inside any “any premises which are open to members of the public and used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services” including shops, takeaway restaurants and shopping malls.
They’re also required in:
- health and social care settings
- hospitality premises – such as restaurants, pubs and bars
- banks and post offices
- visitor attractions
- entertainment venues – such as cinemas, bowling alleys and amusement arcades
- places of worship
- courts and tribunal buildings.
For the full list of rules around face coverings in Scotland, see the Scottish Government’s advice.
In Wales, face coverings are required “in all indoor public places”. This includes public transport and taxis, and hospitality venues (except when you are seated to eat or drink).
See the Welsh Government’s advice for more information.
People in Northern Ireland must wear face coverings in “relevant places”. These include:
- any indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent
- restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars, except when seated to eat or drink
- public transport, coaches and taxis, including hubs such as train stations and bus stops.
See the Northern Ireland Executive’s advice for more information.
When customers are not wearing a face covering
Managing customers and their experiences within stores under the new rules may be challenging at first for staff. Remember that some disabled customers cannot wear face covering. This might be because they have a skin condition, asthma, a mental health condition or because they are autistic. There could be many reasons. Staff do not need and should not ask for precise details.
When interacting with customers without face coverings:
- Empower staff to ask questions, but in a non-accusatory manner, whilst also not making any negative assumptions about a customer’s reason for not wearing a face covering. E.g. “Hello, I see you’re not wearing a face mask. Is there a reason for that?” If the customer says they aren’t required to wear one then accept this answer and allow them to continue. Some customers might point to a badge, card or their phone to show they are exempt – for example the government’s own face coverings exemption badge which can be printed off or shown on a phone. Others might just say that they cannot wear a mask. Staff should accept this.
- Assume that a customer has a good reason for not wearing a face covering to avoid putting a customer ‘on the spot’.
- Make sure staff don’t ask for details about a disability or condition – it’s sufficient for a customer to say they don’t have to wear a mask, don’t push them on the details.
- Make sure staff have these conversations from a safe distance or with Perspex screens in between themselves and the customer.
- Communicate to staff that they are not responsible for enforcing the law and should err on the side of caution when asking a customer for more information.
When another customer complains that someone is not wearing a face covering:
- Thank the customer for pointing out the issue and tell them that staff will speak with the customer without the face mask.
- Ask customer, as advised above.
- If an altercation starts between two customers train staff members to intervene from a safe distance. They should say to the customer complaining about the customer not wearing the covering that the shop will deal with this now and they can continue shopping. Take the customer not wearing a face covering to one side and talk to them from a safe distance. Staff should accept the customer’s reason for not wearing a mask and allow them to continue shopping. If the customer has simply forgotten their mask or did not know about the rule, offer to provide them a disposable mask (if you have any that you provide to customers) ask them to wear one next time.
When a member of staff, or a customer, relies on lip-reading to communicate:
- Empower staff to ask customers if they could lower their face covering when speaking to them after explaining that they are lip reading.
- Customers should also feel confident to ask a member of staff to do the same – see below for advice on communicating this message to your customers.
- Ensure this is done at a safe distance or with a Perspex screen in between.
- Allow staff and customers to refuse if they don’t feel safe lowering their face covering. It then may be necessary to ask another member of staff to serve the customer.
- Other measures could be implemented such as members of staff carrying a notepad and pen to write messages but they must ensure that they are the only person who touches the pad and pen. Some customers and staff members might have mobile phone apps which translate spoken words into text.
Communicating practices to customers
Consider using the following to communicate the practices you’d like them to follow around face coverings in your premises:
- Signage – visual as well as written signs work best e.g. a face without a mask with a cross and a face with a mask with a tick next to it
- Tannoy announcements
- Security staff
- State on company website what the protocols are, so that customers can be aware in advance of the procedures that are in place.
Make sure that any signage or other communication is accessible for all customers. See our Inclusive Communication Toolkit for more information.
It’s also a good idea to train your staff, as well as supplying resources (e.g. scripts, guidance, signage) on what they should and shouldn’t do when dealing with customers and face coverings.