Face mask legislation and exemptions
On 27th November 2021, the Government announced that face masks are mandatory again across the UK following the new Omicron variant.
Broadly speaking, throughout the UK, face masks have to be worn by customers and staff in public indoor places (aside from hospitality), particularly if they are crowded and enclosed, and where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
More specifically, face masks must be worn in the following places, with examples for each area:
- shops and supermarkets – places that offer goods or services for retail sale or hire. This includes shops within other premises, such as visitor attractions, for examples gift shops or museums.
- shopping centres – malls and indoor markets – and retail galleries
- places providing legal or financial services – post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
- places offering personal care and beauty treatments – hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours
- public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries), taxis and private hire vehicles
- transport hubs – airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals
- takeaways places without space for the consumption of food or drink on the premises
- any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson, a practical driving test, or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction, and in all HGV lessons and tests
- estate and letting agents
- retail travel agents
- veterinary services
- auction houses
You also need to wear a face covering in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries.
Face coverings are not legally required in hospitality settings, as well as places of worship, cinemas and public libraries or community premises, although they are advised.
The list above is from the Government website for England, but they largely apply elsewhere too.
However, do keep in mind that there are differences in examples used by different Governments, so please do check the Government website for where you live:
- Face masks rules in England
- Face masks rules in Scotland
- Face masks rules in Northern Ireland
- Face masks rules in Wales
But there are exemptions. In England and Wales, these rules don’t apply to children under the age of 11 – under 5 in Scotland and 13 in Northern Ireland – and across the UK some disabled people or those with health conditions where there is a legitimate or reasonable reason not to, as listed under Government guidelines. This includes:
- if you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- if 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 (take a look at our lip-reading exemption card).
Other exemptions apply to some employees in indoor settings, such as transport workers, police and emergency workers, and some specific situations, such as if you’re exercising and wearing one would impact your ability to participate.
You can also remove your mask for a short time in certain circumstances, such as:
- if you need to avoid a threat, harm or injury
- if you are asked to do so for identification, for example in a bank or pharmacy
- to receive treatment or services, such as when getting a medical procedure
- because you need to eat, say because you’re diabetic
- to take medication.
These cards are ONLY designed for people with a GENUINE ‘legitimate or reasonable reason‘ for not wearing a mask, as listed under Government guidelines. If you do not have a valid reason, you’re likely to be fined.
Information correct: 03/12/2021
How our mask exemption cards can help you
For a number of people with disabilities and health conditions, wearing a face covering might be impossible, or would make travelling, shopping, commuting or even daily tasks incredibly difficult.
Government guidelines listed above mean that you can now self-certify as being exempt – you don’t have to provide proof.
For example, if you have respiratory condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or bronchitis, you may find it too difficult to breathe through a face covering.
If you have a learning difficulty, sensory processing disorder or neurodivergent condition, wearing a mask could be too overwhelming.
If you have communication difficulties, speech impairment or find it hard to express yourself with a mask on, especially if you are non-verbal, a mask would be difficult.
This could also be the case if you have a mental health condition or invisible disability, such as dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety or have experienced violence or abuse.
This is list is not exhaustive and there will be many other disabilities that would make wearing a mask very difficult.
As such, there has been a lot of concern from people who cannot wear a mask that they will be rebuked or fined for not complying. This is where our mask exemption cards come in.
Our mask exemption lanyard is lightweight and can be worn by either the exempt person or their travel companion if this is not possible.
Do the face mask exemption cards make me ‘mask exempt’?
The mask exemption cards and lanyards do not make you exempt and are not an absolute guarantee that you won’t be stopped or asked for more information. They are simply a visual aid to communicate to those around you that you are medically exempt – it is your responsibility to know whether you are mask exempt.
We would recommend that you also have proof of or information about your condition with you, just in case you are asked for it.
We’re now also selling the face mask exemption cards in bulk. They’re perfect for businesses, organisations, workplaces, schools, colleges and more.
All our cards are now double sided. One side with the Disability Horizons logo on and the other without, you can easily switch sides within the plastic casing and choose which you prefer.