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Face mask exemptions: how to ensure you don’t get fined if you’re exempt

New face mask rules across much of the UK mean that everyone must wear a face covering on public transport, in shops and shopping centres. This also applies to banks, building societies and post offices in England.

Plus, as of 8th August, the rules have been extended to include more indoor spaces, including tourist attractions and entertainment venues, salons, communal areas in hotels and places of worship in England and Scotland.

But what if that is difficult for you to do because of a disability or health condition? We explain the new rules around face masks, who is exempt from wearing one and how our face mask exemption card helps to ensure you don’t get fined.

LAST UPDATE: 8th August 2020

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, everyone is required to wear a face maks or covering when using public transport. If you don’t, you won’t be able to travel and you might be fined £100, or £50 if you pay within 14 days.

In England and Scotland, as well as face masks being mandatory in shops (including supermarkets) and shopping centres since 24th July (this will also be the case for Northern Ireland from 10th August), the rules have expanded to include a wide range of indoor venues – scroll down to see the full list. The same fines and exemptions will be in place as they are with public transport and shops.

However, in certain circumstances, disabled people and those with health conditions are exempt from wearing a face mask.

Read on for more information, and head to the Disability Horizons Shop to buy our face mask exemption card to help stop you being refused travel or entry.

Face masks: the different types

There are a few different types of face masks or coverings:

  • Surgical/medical masks – these disposables masks are usually made from three layers of material. They help to stop large droplets infected with Covid-19 from spreading, for example, if they are coughed or sneezed out by the wearer. They also help to stop droplets from others getting to the wearer’s mouth and nose.
  • Filter face masks – these offer additional protection by filtering out smaller droplets for both the wearer and others (depending on the type of filter).
  • Face shield and visor – plastic shields and visors either cover the entire face or top of it, stopping large droplets reaching the wearer. They can be worn with other types of masks for added protection.
  • General or fabric face coverings – made from a range of different fabrics, these also stop the spread of large droplets, protecting others from Covid-19 if the wearer has it – more on this below. These are the type the public is being told to wear on public transport.

Read our full guide to personal protective equipment explained (PPE) to find out more about the different types of face masks.

Head to the Disability Horizons Shop to buy PPE, including face masks, plastic gloves, aprons and face shields.

Face coverings

Face masks or coverings, also called general, cloth or fabric coverings, can be bought or made at home.

The most effective types have three layers of fabric – an absorbent layer on the inside, a middle layer that filters and a top layer that is water-proof.

They come in a range of patterns and colours, and can be made at home from old clothing. You can also simply use a scarf or balaclava, as long as it fits snuggly around your nose and mouth.

Although they limit the spread of droplets coughed or sneezed out by the person wearing one, there is little evidence to suggest that they protect the wearer.

The UK Government recommends that the general public wears these types of masks on public transport so that others are reserved for health workers.

You can find out more about these types of coverings and what the Government recommends in our article on PPE explained.

You can buy disposable face masks on the Disability Horizons Shop now.

Disposable surgical face mask

Face masks rules

From 15th June 2020, in England, it became compulsory to wear a face mask or covering on public transport, including busses, trains, aircrafts and ferries. This also included transport hubs, i.e. train stations, airports etc.

You are now also required to wear face masks on public transport and in transport hubs in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

From 24th July, face masks also became mandatory in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres in England – they were already a requirement in Scotland. From the 10th August, the rule will also be applicable in Northern Ireland.

The Government has defined shops and supermarkets as “places that offer goods or services for retail sale or hire” and shopping centres as “malls and indoor markets”.

As of the 8th August, in England and Scotland, you must wear a mask in the following places:

  • places offering personal care and beauty treatments – hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues – museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, funfairs, theme parks
  • 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.
  • funeral service providers – funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels
  • community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • veterinary practices
  • places of worship
  • storage and distribution facilities.

In England, you need to wear a face covering in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries.

If you’re caught without a face mask, you’ll be denied access to the premises and possibly given a fine of £100 (£50 if paid within 14 days).

The current rules across the UK don’t require you to wear a face mask in restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs.

The Government has also recommended that you wear a face mask in care homes and any other indoor spaces where “social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.

As an employee in other work contexts, it’s up to individual businesses to assess whether PPE is necessary for any particular context, so check the rules for your particular work setting with your employer.

There are no rules around wearing a face mask in Wales, although people are advised to wear a medical mask in places where keeping 2m apart isn’t possible.

This information is correct as of 8th August 2020. To check the latest information, please visit the below links.

Face mask exemption on public transport and in shops

In England, these rules don’t apply to children under the age of 11 (under 5 in Scotland and 13 in Northern Ireland) and some disabled people or those with health conditions where there is a legitimate 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.

To put this into context, exemptions can apply if you have a disability or condition that would make it very difficult to wear a face covering.

For example, if you have respiratory condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 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 is list is not exhaustive and there will be many other disabilities, including invisible ones, that would make wearing a mask very difficult.

Other exemptions apply to some employees in indoor settings, such as transport workers, police and emergency workers, and some specific situations.

You can also remove your mask for a short time in certain circumstances, such as if you are asked to do so for identification, to receive treatment or services (for example when getting a hair cut) or to take medication – visit the Government website for the full list of reasons.

These exemptions are similar in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although please do check for details where you live.

Face mask exemption card

Face mask exemption cardIf you have a disability or condition that falls into one of the categories listed above, you can now self-certify as being exempt.

To help ensure that you don’t get fined when you’re genuinely exempt for medical reasons, we’ve created an exemption card.

Our mask exemption card comes on a lanyard or badge clip. It is a durable, portable pass that you can wear around your neck or pinned to your coat or top while travelling or shopping.

It provides drivers and staff with immediate and simple-to-understand information regarding your mask exemption.

The bright red lanyard has ‘MASK EXEMPT’ written in white capital letters so it is easy to see. The credit card-sized ID badge further explains your mask exemption as being due to a “disability/health condition”. Both can be seen and read at a safe distance.

There is also the option to purchase the ID card with a badge clip instead of a lanyard, which can be worn on shirts, tops or coats.

The pocked-sized design of the ID, badge clip and lanyard means it can be stored in your coat or bag making it easy to access and put around your neck or pin to you.

The badge costs just £2.95, the lanyard £3.95 and for it is £4.95 for both.

Head to the Disability Horizons Shop now to buy your face mask exemption card on a lanyard or as a badge to make sure you’re covered when you travel and shop.

Please note, these cards are ONLY designed for people with a genuine reason for not wearing a mask. If you do not have a legitimate reason listed under Government guidelines, you’re open to being fined.

If you cannot wear a face covering, you might want to also consider our ‘Crystal Gaze‘ face shield. It is extremely lightweight (28g), has superb visibility and gives you some protection from the sneezes and coughing of others.

By Disability Horizons

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