Face coverings: advice for retailers

Shopper with facemask

SGF has issued guidance to retailers following the news that face coverings will be mandatory in shops in Scotland from 10 July.

The measure applies to shops when customers are present. Staff will be required to wear face coverings if they cannot physically distance for two metres or there is no partition between customers and staff.

A face covering is defined as any type of protective clothing which covers a person’s nose and mouth. It is not a PPE face mask. Customers are expected to provide their own face coverings, but SGF strongly suggests retailers have a supply of cloth or textile face coverings available as an initial encouragement to those customers without face coverings.

Not wearing a face covering in a retail setting will be a criminal offence, subject to a fixed penalty notice.

Shop workers and retailers are not required to enforce the measure, but SGF asked retailers to engage with customers who are not wearing a face-covering and explain the law. If customers refuse to wear a face covering, retailers should not stop customers from entering the store or from being served. The responsibility rests with the customer and it is up to the police to enforce the law.

There are exemptions. These include:

  • Children under five years of age.
  • People with health conditions who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or without severe distress.
  • If people need to take medication or to eat or drink where reasonably necessary.
  • Temporary removal to comply with a request by a relevant person or another person acting in the course of their duties.
  • For customers with a hearing impairment and who lip-read, it is permitted to remove face coverings as necessary, to provide advice, information or assistance.
  • For age-related sales customers are asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff.
  • In some food-handling settings where the wearing of a mask could compromise the hygiene practices that are already in place to ensure food safety.

The wearing of a face covering can be uncomfortable and may not be appropriate for long durations of time. Employers should therefore consider providing opportunities for staff to temporarily remove face coverings in non-public areas. Where staff have concerns on wearing face coverings this should be resolved in discussion between staff and managers.

Covid-19 is a respiratory infection and the wearing of face coverings is intended to prevent the spread of infection between people. There is no evidence that it can make people ill through food. It is therefore important that wearing a face covering doesn’t affect the hygiene controls that should already be in place to ensure food is protected from other bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning. If there is any concern that wearing a face covering could present a risk to the food, the shop worker would not be required to wear one.

The law will also apply in indoor shopping malls including those with covered walkways, retail service settings such as hairdressers, and in wholesale settings where members of the public are present.