Face coverings: What are the rules for businesses?

Blogs 22 Jul 2021

Our legal experts answer your frequently asked questions about the rules on face masks across the UK and what your business should do.

This content was last reviewed 22 July 2021.

On 19 July 2021, legal restrictions ended in England. While cases are high and rising, the Government is encouraging everyone to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. Read FSB's response

FSB members can access a detailed FAQ about the removal of coronavirus legal restrictions in England and can find the latest guidance for employers across the UK in the factsheet on Coronavirus Health and Safety Guidance for Employers on the FSB Legal Hub. This FAQ and factsheet will be reviewed regularly as government guidance is updated. Please log in to your member dashboard to view this.

Please note this article is not a substitute for legal advice. FSB members should contact our 24/7 legal helpline for advice.

Updated guidance has been published by the government regarding face coverings. In England, face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality, or on public transport.

However, the Government expects and recommends the continued wearing of face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don’t usually meet, and in particular, where the risk of transmission is likely to be greater.

What are the rules across the UK?

In Scotland, you must wear a face covering in certain public places by law, unless exempt. This includes retail, hospitality, workplaces and public transport. View a full list and detailed guidance here.

In Wales, face coverings currently remain mandatory in all indoor public places. View detailed guidance here.

Face coverings are also still required in indoor settings in Northern Ireland. View detailed guidance here.

Can my business ask customers and employees to wear a face covering?

As set out above, face coverings are still mandatory in some settings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, unless individuals are exempt from wearing one.  Individuals in England are no longer legally required to wear a face covering in England in any setting and for that reason, individuals no longer need to rely on a statutory exemption for not wearing one and requirements around face coverings will instead be subject to the business or employer’s own rules, which need to comply with equality law and health and safety legislation.

Businesses in England, including transport operators, can choose to still either require or to encourage their employees and customers to wear face coverings, unless they are unable to do so for an age, health or disability reason (in which case those individuals should not be required to provide any written evidence of this, or an exemption card as a condition for entering or remaining on the premises – employers can make reasonable enquiries and request their employee’s permission for medical evidence, if appropriate). 

Businesses and employers will need to consider reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities who may not be able to wear a face covering. Alternatively, businesses or employers may remove the requirements for face coverings to be worn entirely (subject to the findings of their own risk assessments under health and safety legislation). Where customers or employees choose to wear face coverings, those individuals should be supported in using face coverings safely.

Businesses and employers must complete a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to manage risks to the health and safety of their workforce and customers in their workplace or setting, including the risks of COVID-19.  For businesses in Wales, a specific coronavirus risk assessment is still required and should form the basis for what reasonable measures are to be taken on any premises to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus and the risk of spread of coronavirus.

Got more questions?

For the latest advice and guidance for small businesses and the self-employed, visit our coronavirus hub

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