With Wales introducing mandatory face coverings in stores, all of the United Kingdom has regulations in place, however they are different depending on which country your store is based in. We break down what you need to know.

England

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Who needs to wear one?

Customers are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.

Do staff need to wear a face covering?

From Thursday 24 September, staff members in shops in England are required to wear face coverings. Staff in stock rooms or working behind screens do not have to wear a face covering.

Who is exempt?

  • Children under the age of 11
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
  • Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • If you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate

What should I do if a customer isn’t wearing one?

Premises where face coverings are required are advised to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law. The government has made it clear that it is not the responsibility of shop staff to enforce the regulation.

What’s the penalty for a customer not wearing a face covering?

The police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days for the first offence). Repeat offenders receiving fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have their fines doubled at each offence. After the first offence, there will be no discount. For example, receiving a second fine will amount to £200 and a third fine will be £400, up to a maximum value of £3,200.

Northern Ireland

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Who needs to wear one?

Since 10 August the use of face coverings in certain indoor settings, such as shops or shopping centres, has been mandatory. If you are a customer of a food takeaway business, or a shop that sells food or drink for immediate consumption, and it provides seating for its customers, you may remove your face covering while eating and drinking at those seats.

Do staff need to wear a face covering?

No.

Who is exempt?

The following are exempt from the regulation:

  • If you are under the age of 13
  • If you are a member of staff or employee of the shop or shopping centre
  • Temporarily, if a member of staff or employee or a police officer asks you to remove it to check your identity
  • If you have a reasonable excuse not to. These include:
  • If you need to seek medical assistance or to provide care to someone who needs assistance, such as a vulnerable person or in an emergency
  • If you need to avoid injury, illness or escape from harm
  • If you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • If you need to remove it to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • If you need to eat, drink, or take medication
  • If you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official.

Customers do not need to get a letter from a doctor or the government to show that they do not need to wear a face covering.

What should I do if a customer isn’t wearing one?

Retailers and staff are not required to police or enforce the wearing of face coverings and it will be the individual responsibility of the shoppers to comply with this law.

What’s the penalty for a customer not wearing a face covering?

Northern Ireland government warns that if customers do not wear a face covering and are not under 13 or have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one, they are committing an offence and could be fined. This fine has been reported by BBC as being as much as £60.

Scotland

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Who needs to wear one?

Customers and some staff in stores.

Do staff need to wear a face covering?

Staff on the shop floor do but any member of staff behind a partition screen doesn’t.

Who is exempt?

  • Babies, toddlers and children under 5 years of age
  • Police constables or emergency response workers such as paramedics acting in the course of their duty
  • Owners, managers, members of staff, or volunteers, of indoor premises where it is mandatory to wear a face covering who are physically separated, by means of, for example, partition screens, from passengers or customers or if they maintain a 2 metre distance from customers or members of the public
  • People who have a health condition or who are disabled, including hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability, or are providing care for someone with a health condition or disability, and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety to the wearer or the person in the care of the wearer. This includes children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering.
  • You cannot apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • A person who is communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate. Such people should remove the face covering only temporarily whilst communicating and replace it immediately afterwards.
  • A person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on.
  • When a relevant person, such as a police officer, asks you to remove your face covering

What should I do if a customer isn’t wearing one?

Where face coverings are required, persons responsible for relevant premises should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.

What’s the penalty for a customer not wearing a face covering?

If necessary, the police have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £60 (halving to £30 if paid within 28 days) if members of the public do not comply with this law without a reasonable excuse.

Wales

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Who needs to wear one?

Face coverings will be required in all indoor public places, for both customers and staff working in those indoor public areas. This includes a very wide range of locations, such as shops and shopping centres.

Do staff need to wear a face covering?

Yes. Employers will also be required to mandate the use of face coverings in other indoor workplaces where social distancing cannot be maintained, unless there are strong reasons not to. Staff may therefore find they are required to wear a face covering at work even in places which are not open to the public.

Who is exempt?

The requirement will apply to everyone aged 11 and over – including customers and staff. However, you may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if (for example):

  • You are not able to put on or to wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a disability or impairment;
  • You are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate; or
  • You are escaping from a threat or danger and don’t have a face covering.

What should I do if a customer isn’t wearing one?

Managers of premises are required to provide information about the legal requirement to those intending to enter. This information may be provided in a variety of ways. Websites should carry specific information on wearing face coverings as part of the conditions of entry and may provide links to other useful websites – for example, showing how to make a face covering and how to wear a face covering properly. Notices advising customers of their legal obligation to wear face coverings should be displayed in a prominent place (in both English and Welsh) whenever feasible.

Managers of premises are also required by Welsh law to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus on their premises. They have a part to play in keeping people safe.

When asked, customers will be given an opportunity to wear a face covering or explain why they have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering. If they are not complying with the law customers may be asked to leave the premises.

What’s the penalty for a customer not wearing a face covering?

Police or environmental health officers can also issue a fixed penalty for breaches of these requirements. A first offence is punishable by a penalty of £60 (which doubles for each subsequent offence up to a maximum of £1,920). Repeat offenders could also be prosecuted in court where there is no limit to the fine that may be issued.