Where are face masks required?
As of Friday 24 July, it is compulsory in England for all customers in shops and supermarkets to wear a face covering. The government guidance in England states that:
“Under the new rules, people who do not wear a face covering will face a fine of up to £100, in line with the sanction on public transport and just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.”
From 8 August, face coverings will be mandatory in a number of new settings in England, including:
- public libraries.
See the Government’s advice for details of all places that face masks will be mandatory from 8 August.
Scotland mandated the wearing of face coverings in shops a fortnight earlier, on 10 July. People are now required to wear face coverings in shops, on public transport, and in public transport premises such as bus stops, rail stations and airports.
For more detail see the Scottish Government’s advice.
Since 27 July, face masks have been compulsory on public transport in Wales, including buses, coaches, trains and airplanes. It also applies to taxis and tourist services such as excursion buses and mountain railways. They are not required in shops or other settings. See the Welsh Government’s advice for more information.
Since 10 July, face masks have been compulsory on public transport and public transport premises in Northern Ireland. This includes buses, coaches and trains, as well as bus stops, train stations and airports. Face coverings are not compulsory on tour coaches or taxis. 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 or 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 perpex 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 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.