- From 24 July 2020, unless they have a reasonable excuse, members of the public in England must wear face coverings in all relevant places. Schedule 1, Part 1 defines a relevant place as being shops and enclosed shopping centres; cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service; banks; building societies; credit unions; short-term loan providers; savings clubs and currency exchange offices; anywhere that transmits money by cash or cheque; and post offices.
- Under Schedule 1, Part 2, a face covering is not mandatory in hairdressers and close-contact services; eat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs; entertainment venues, including, amongst others, cinemas, concert halls and theatres; visitor attractions (such as heritage sites or museums); gyms or leisure centres; and dentists or opticians. This is because other safety measures will be in place.
- Reasonable excuses include not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering without severe distress or because of any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability. Other exemptions include travelling with or helping someone who relies on lip reading, avoiding injury or escaping harm, eating or drinking, in order to verify a person's identity, at the request of a relevant person (a constable; a police community support officer; a Transport for London officer; and a person designated by the Secretary of State), during the provision of healthcare services or when taking medication (Regulation 4).
- Regulation 3 states that the requirement does not apply to children under the age of 11, the owner or employees of relevant places, public transport staff, police officers, other emergency workers and officials (including, amongst others, a Health and Safety Executive inspector or pilot).
- Where a relevant person believes that someone is not wearing a face covering without reasonable excuse, they may direct that person to wear such a covering or direct that person to leave the relevant place in question. If necessary, a constable exercising such power may use reasonable force to escort someone from a relevant place (Regulation 5).
- Under Regulation 6, persons who commit an offence under these Regulations may receive a fine following summary conviction. In addition, anyone aged 18 or over who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes these Regulations may be issued a fixed penalty notice of £100 by a relevant person (reduced to £50 for prompt payment within 14 days of the notice) (Regulation 7).
- Different legislation in different areas: The law surrounding the pandemic is rapidly changing from week to week and it differs between the devolved nations. For example, children under the age of 5 in Scotland are not legally obliged to wear face coverings in relevant places. Whereas the age of exemption in England is children under the age of 11. The law in Scotland has been in place for a couple of weeks now and appears to be much less complicated than the English legislation. As a consequence, companies may find it difficult to keep up with the law and decipher what they are legally obliged to do (if anything) at each of their relevant places.
- Lack of definition: The Regulations omit to provide a definition for what constitutes "severe distress" in respect of a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.
- Risks: Owners or employees of relevant places may choose to refuse entry to customers who refuse to wear a face covering whilst on the premises which may create additional risks for staff. However, they are not responsible for enforcing it. The regulators, including police, have broad powers to refuse entry, including forcibly removing those who refuse to comply which will cause a heightened risk of threat of violence towards for everyone.
By applying DWF's expertise in this area, we can ensure that businesses have in place an effective risk management tool, mitigating the risks presented by the Regulations, for example, the heightened risk of violence towards employees. We will also provide live updates on the Regulations and guidance for your business during these unprecedented times. For more information please get in touch with one of the contacts below.