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Compulsory for customers – what about employees?

Posted on: July 24th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

From today, for customers it is compulsory to wear face coverings in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs. Should you be asking your employees to take the same approach?


  1. If other mitigating measures are not in place (Perspex screens, social distancing) government guidance ‘strongly’ recommends that you should consider asking employees to wear face coverings but they are leaving the ultimate decision with you, the employer. If you’re unable to put other mitigating measures in place, requiring employees to wear face coverings can be justified as a measure to meet with your legal obligation to provide a safe working environment.
  2. Even if you do ask your employees to wear face coverings, you’re still required to follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines to reduce the duration and proximity of contact between employees. That includes cigarette breaks, lunchtimes and socialising before and after work.
  3. Employees reluctant to wear a mask might cite a number of reasons including health conditions such as anxiety, panic disorders, and respiratory issues. These concerns should be investigated and, if justified, adjustments made where the individual is disabled and the wearing of a mask puts them at a disadvantage.

Requiring your employees to wear face coverings may be a necessary step to foster a safe environment for both colleagues and customers. A blanket rule without alternatives and flexibility may give rise to reluctance and challenge. If employees are citing health concerns, seek advice from your lawyer to mitigate the risk of disability discrimination claims.

We’ve updated our ‘safe return to work’ policy in line with the latest government guidance on face coverings – click here if you’d like to access (£120+VAT).


This update is accurate on the date it was sent (24 July 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.