Masks have to be worn in public and controllers of premises can insist they are worn by anyone who enters.
In England, the wearing of masks or ‘face coverings’ on public transport (including trains, buses and trams) is mandatory and enforceable by fine. School transport, taxis and private hire, and cruise ships are expressly excluded from the requirement. Otherwise, wearing of masks is mentioned in non-binding guidance only and is a matter of personal choice, for now, at least,
Government guidance is in nature of a request only but not a direction or obligation on anyone to observe. (The same principle applies to social distancing, about which we have commented in other posts.)
Businesses and controllers of premises are free to say ‘masks are not required’, or even ‘wearing of masks is not permitted here’. Similarly, they can insist that masks are worn.
However, subtleties arise here and individuals may be entitled to be exempted from any such rule that may be imposed. For example, in the same way that an exemption would be extended to allow guide dogs, exceptions may be required for those with disabilities where wearing of a mask is necessary and far more serious than simply choosing to obey government guidance. Equally, many people might legitimately refuse to wear a mask having regard to, for example, respiratory conditions or anxiety. Additionally, such a rule could never be used to exclude Muslim women whose mouth and nose is covered by a niqab.
Generally, however, provided there is a reasonable degree of awareness and compassion to avoid unlawful discrimination, controllers can control who or isn’t permitted on their premises and to set dress codes.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020
The Welsh Assembly Government, led by First Minister Mark Drakeford, sought to ensure the guidance could be enforced by law. As a result, since 7 April 2020, employers and owners of business premises have been required to enforce 2m distancing and could be fined, and potentially closed, for not doing so. We shall wait to see if guidance in respect to wearing of masks is also enforced.
Meanwhile, however, Wales is actually more relaxed in relation to wearing of masks. Unlike England, wearing of masks on public transport has not yet been made compulsory and no relevant regulations have been introduced on this issue. Yet.
Warning: Law and circumstances can change very quickly. Please note the date of publication of any blog post and check for any updates on the issues addressed. In any event, we do not condone or encourage breaching the law and neither the above nor any information posted on this website constitutes legal advice. It must not be relied upon as such and specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Please read our disclaimer.