Lords Committee raises issues about enforcement of legislation requiring shoppers to wear face coverings
The Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has published a report on the Government's Regulations in respect of wearing face coverings in public places.
The Regulations came into effect on 24 July 2020 and require members of the public to wear face coverings whilst inside shops, shopping centres and transport hubs in England. This in line with the Government's view that face coverings may help reduce the likelihood of passing on COVID-19 to others, particularly if someone is asymptomatic.
Enforcement methods and various exemptions for the non-wearing of face coverings broadly mirror the existing legislation that requires face coverings to be worn on public transport.
Although enforcement is a matter for the police and specified officials, government guidance says: “Businesses should take reasonable steps to encourage customer compliance”. Shop managers and their employees are, however, exempt from an obligation to wear a face covering.
The Committee recognises that there are practical reasons for this difference in requirement to wear a face covering, (uncomfortable to wear for long periods on duty for example), but suggests it can reasonably be anticipated that difficulties may arise where staff in shops, who are not wearing face coverings, ask a member of the public to put one on.
The Committee concludes that “given the potential challenges … the Government should keep the implementation and effectiveness of this policy and any sensitivities arising from it under close scrutiny”.
Lord Hodgson, Chair of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said:
“When we discussed this issue, the Committee had real concerns that staff in shops asking customers to wear a face covering could find themselves in a potentially difficult position if customers challenge them in return on why they aren't wearing face coverings themselves.
“We recognise the reasons for these different requirements but note that the Government must continue to monitor how effectively this policy can be implemented.”