woman shopper in face mask coronavirus

Today sees the return of face masks being mandatory in shops. Customers must wear a face covering whilst in a shop and colleagues must wear a face covering when in customer facing areas unless they are exempt.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has stated that the rules will be reviewed in three weeks.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is advising retailers to communicate the rules on face coverings, but to avoid challenging those who refuse to wear one as it can lead to abuse.

This was confirmed by Easwaran Surean from Brooksend service station: “It’s good for the staff and it’s good for the customers ultimately, so if our staff aren’t wearing a face mask they won’t be allowed on the shop floor.

We are a bit wary about enforcing it with customers, as last time we did this we had customers shouting at us and getting very angry, even at one stage we had to call the police. So of course we will try to encourage customers to wear them but we don’t want any more altercations.”

Kumar Balasingam from Finch’s was also asked about facing customer abuse but said simply: “It is the law now, so I won’t allow anyone in the shop that is not wearing a mask, if they refuse I will have to serve them outside.”

He continued: “To be honest it should have been legal a long time ago – other countries in Europe have legal obligations to wear masks in shops, and it protects everyone. I have my family, and when I go to work I want to be able to return safely, so it is definitely good the government have done this with the new variant.”

The Union of shop, distributive and allied workers have also released a statement on their website. General Secretary Paddy Lillis said: “There is no reason why, when lifting other covid restrictions in England, the Government could not have kept the requirement to wear a face covering in busy public places, like shops and public transport. This flip-flopping on basic and sensible covid measures and the different rules across the UK create confusion, reduce compliance and can lead to conflict.

“Retail staff working with the public every day are deeply worried about catching Covid-19 and the arrival of the Omicron variant is a further concern. Wearing a face covering protects others, it should not be a personal preference, but a personal responsibilty. The Government must be clear and consistent on it being mandatory and that shopworkers are not expected to enforce the law on face coverings.”