Kate Brooks

Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services

DATE PUBLISHED: 07 Jul 2021 LAST UPDATED: 02 Jul 2022

Mask Policy at Work

There is no doubt a sigh of relief following the government announcement that we will move to step 4 of the roadmap on 19th July 2021. However there is also likely to be trepidation as the pandemic is by no means over.

Government guidance is that everyone should follow guidance by acting carefully and proportionately, to manage the risks to themselves and others. The government will also be updating, working safely guidance which all employers should follow.

It is likely that there will be no legal requirement to wear masks inside, however employers still have a legal duty to provide a safe place of work and follow pre-COVID health and safety law. This will undoubtedly mean employers will continue to need to have COVID relevant risk assessments in place.

In some situations, employers may wish to put in place a mask wearing policy in the following situations:

  1. Where staff are coming into contact with people that they do not usually see inside; or
  2. If staff are likely to come into contact with clinically extremely colleagues or third parties.

If there is a clear justification as to why employees should continue wearing masks, this should be communicated to staff.

If staff do not comply with a request to wear masks, the employer needs to understand the reason for the individual’s refusal to wear a mask.

If the reason is due to an illness that could amount to a disability, the employer will be unlikely to be able to force that employee and is best advised to consider making an adjustment to its policy for the individual.

It may be that you have staff who chose to continue wearing masks inside even if there is no policy. Employers may wish to communicate to other staff that this is supported and everyone is free to choose (unless of course there is a health and safety reason as to why someone should not be wearing a mask).

If you encounter any tricky situations surrounding the wearing of masks at work or any other HR, employment law, or COVID related matter, please get in touch for a free and no obligation discussion kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or 01202 057754.

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