Face masks: How the regulations will affect your business

  • 15 Jul 2020

Wearing a face covering will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from 24 July 2020.

Small firms will be hoping face coverings will bring confidence back to consumers.

Responding to the announcement from the Government Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry, said: “Businesses are already introducing screens, cleaning more regularly and engaging in a contact-free way where possible, and many are already making use of facemasks for staff.


“Facemasks and coverings can provide a certain level of protection to people you come into close contact with, which could help to stop the spread of the disease and to help get back to business as soon as possible.

“But at a time when we want to encourage footfall to increase in our town centres and high streets, councils and government should help small firms either by delivering masks or by offering funding for the purchase of masks so that customers aren’t turned away.

“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation."

But what will the new rule mean if you’re a shop owner?

Why are face coverings being made mandatory in shops?

Enclosed spaces can make distancing more difficult, and there is a higher risk of close contact with people who aren’t members of your household.

“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation," said Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses. Read the full response from FSB.

Will the new rules apply to my business?

Face coverings must be worn by all customers on your retail premises, apart from where they are exempt.

The rule doesn’t apply for hospitality businesses, such as cafes, coffee shops, restaurants and pubs, where it wouldn’t be practical to wear a face mask. However, in this case, you should be collecting customer details under NHS Test and Trace.


How do the rules differ across the UK?

The new announcement applies to customers of retail businesses in England. The use of face coverings is currently mandatory on public transport in England.

In Scotland, wearing a face covering is already compulsory in shops for both customers and staff, unless staff can maintain 2m physical distancing or where Perspex screens are in place, and on public transport, with some limited exemptions.

Northern Ireland made them compulsory on most buses, trains and ferries from 10 July.

Wales is advising people to wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible. Their use will also become mandatory on public transport from 27 July in Wales.

Who is exempt?

Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

Do my employees need to wear a face covering?

The government sector guidance for shops on working safely during coronavirus, which applies in England, has not yet been updated in respect of face coverings. However, the use of face coverings does not replace other more effective measures to protect workers and customers from the risk of contracting coronavirus on the premises.


Individual retailers may encourage the use of face coverings for staff unless certain exemptions apply, although there will be no legal requirement for shop or retail workers to wear face coverings once these become mandatory for customers.  Where 2m physical distancing cannot be adhered to, including for shop workers, employers are advised to put in place mitigating actions.

Mitigating actions include:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other (for example at tills for staff serving customers)
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

What if someone refuses to wear a face covering?

If a customer refuses to wear a face covering, and they don’t have an exemption, you can decide to refuse them entry. If they fail to comply with this, you can call the police as a last resort.

Retailers will not have legal powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings on their premises, although they may choose to refuse entry to customers who refuse to wear a face covering whilst on the premises. The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine to those refusing to wear a face covering.


Can my business be fined if customers don’t wear a face covering?

No. The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual. You can ask someone to leave your premises if they refuse to wear a face mask.

People who fail to follow the new rule may face a fine of up to £100.

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