This guidance is issued under regulation 13 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (the “Coronavirus Regulations”). It is aimed at any person who is required by regulation 12 of the Coronavirus Regulations to:
- take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres between all persons is maintained on particular premises;
- ensure that other reasonable measures are taken to minimise risk of exposure to the virus, in particular by limiting close face to face interaction and by improving hygiene; and
- provide information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise risk.
The regulations enable the Welsh Ministers to issue guidance on what is expected under regulation 12. Regard must be had to this guidance, and to any other guidance, codes of practice or other documents published by other bodies that are incorporated into this guidance.
The main guidance on the meaning of regulation 12 is published separately. This supplementary guidance focuses on the duties placed on the people listed above with regard to the wearing of face coverings at indoor premises for which they are responsible. It considers
- premises open to the public; and
- other premises.
Premises open to the public
As of 14 September, it is mandatory in Wales for face coverings to be worn in most indoor public places that are open to the public. However, there is an exemption for those under the age of 11, and when anyone is on premises where food or drink is sold or otherwise provided, for consumption on those premises. (Where only part of a premises is available for consumption of food/drink, the requirement to wear a face covering will still apply in the other parts of the premises.) The Regulations also provide that where a person has a reasonable excuse (examples of which are given) a face covering need not be worn. Read details of the reasonable excuses.
The precise locations at which face coverings regulations apply are the indoor public areas of “open premises”, which are defined at regulation 12(3). “Open premises” includes many different types of premises listed in Schedules 2 and 4 to the regulations, as well as places of worship, cemeteries, crematoriums and community centres.
The legal obligation for members of the public to wear face coverings is held by the members of the public and not the managers of the premises. However, managers of premises do have some responsibilities with regard to the public, and they also have responsibilities with relation to staff and others working on the premises.
Responsibilities towards members of the public
With regard to members of the public, those responsible for premises have a role in explaining what the requirements are, and encouraging visitors to comply with the regulations and wear face coverings. Wearing face coverings should be regarded as an essential behaviour in indoor public places alongside other well-established behaviours. The Welsh Government hopes that people will understand the reasons for wearing face coverings and will do so. It is vital however that the new rules are explained to people and that they have an opportunity to comply.
In the first instance, the managers of premises open to the public should provide information to members of the public who may visit their premises. Examples of how such information should be provided include:
- Websites maintained by the managers of the premises should carry specific information on wearing face coverings as part of the conditions of entering, and may provide links to other useful websites – for example, showing how to make a face covering and this guidance on how to wear a face covering properly
- Notices advising passengers of their legal obligation to wear face coverings should be displayed in a prominent place (in both Welsh and English, and other community languages as relevant) whenever feasible
- Information may be given orally, or in written form. Managers should consider the most efficient way of ensuring that all customers are made aware of the requirement in the circumstances of the particular location
- Managers will want to consider the diverse needs of visitors to their premises, and should consider whether the information should be made available in different formats, for example for people with sight or hearing impairment and, if necessary, in other languages.
For example, many premises can, with good reason, refuse to admit customers who attempt to smoke indoors. Smoking in this circumstance is viewed as a threat to the health of staff and other customers. Similarly a shop owner or a hairdresser (for example) can refuse to admit or refuse to serve a customer who fails to wear a face covering on seeking to enter the premises or removes their covering while inside, unless they have an exemption or a reasonable excuse not to do so.
In raising the question of whether a customer has an exemption or reasonable excuse, you should be sensitive to the fact that not all reasons why someone may be exempt are visible and obvious – for example mental health conditions, a requirement for lip reading, or impairments that are hidden. From experience in other countries where face coverings have been required earlier, we also know that survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence sometimes find that wearing a mask triggers flashbacks to traumatic experiences, and if that applies to someone visiting your premises then this would also be a good reason not to wear a face covering.
Ultimately, the operator, an employee or a person authorised by the operator are not expected to take enforcement action. However, if circumstances necessitate it, they may wish to call the Police to report the issue. It is an offence not to wear a face covering in indoor premises open to the public unless an exemption applies or a passenger has a reasonable excuse for not doing so.
Responsibilities towards staff and volunteers
Staff working in areas of indoor premises which are open to the public are also required by law to wear face coverings while they are in those areas (again, with the exception of venues selling food or drink to be consumed on the premises, and with some limited circumstances in which particular individuals are excepted or in which coverings can be removed).
Employers should ensure that their staff are aware of these requirements, and the limited exceptions to them. In these specific circumstances, while the primary responsibility lies with the staff member, who can ultimately be subject to criminal action, employers should also make every effort to ensure that all staff in areas open to the public comply with the law.
In premises which are only partly open to the public, face coverings are not mandatory in those parts which are not open to the public. This would, for example, cover those parts of shops, gyms or museums which are only for staff. Instead, employers should follow the approach set out in the section below.
Premises which are not open to the public
Indoor premises which are not open to the public will vary widely, and so it is not currently judged proportionate to require the wearing of face coverings in all such premises (for example, where individuals do not come into close contact with others). However, where social distancing cannot be maintained, the risk will be similar to those areas open to the public, and so the Welsh Government considers that employers and others responsible for premises in Wales should generally, as a reasonable measure, also require face coverings to be worn by staff and visitors to their premises in indoor areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.
This should be done unless there are strong reasons to the contrary – as for example might be the case in schools or childcare settings, which would be expected to build on existing guidance.
Limited exceptions to this can also be made, which should reflect the exceptions that exist for the requirement to wear face coverings in public places.
Where employers do require their staff and visitors to their premises to wear face coverings in areas that are not open to the public, they should ensure that their staff and visitors are aware of these requirements, and the limited exceptions to them. In doing so they should be sensitive to the fact that not all reasons why someone may be exempt are visible and obvious – for example mental health conditions, or impairments that are hidden.
What parts of premises are “open to the public”?
Individual managers of premises will have to make judgements in their own circumstances, but the following examples may be of assistance:
- If two delivery personnel work together in a lorry, this is not a public area and so the wearing of face coverings is not mandatory unless the business determines that it is a reasonable measure to comply with their duty to minimise exposure. This is in turn likely to depend on whether social distancing can be maintained or whether screens can be installed.
- Staff working in an office – coverings will be mandatory in any spaces on the premises that are open to the general public, such as a reception area if anyone can walk in. They will not be mandatory on the office floor, unless the business determines that it is a reasonable measure to comply with their duty to minimise exposure. This is in turn likely to depend on whether social distancing can be maintained.
- A plumber or other tradesperson undertaking work in someone’s home – coverings will not be mandatory unless they determine that it is a reasonable measure to comply with their duty to minimise exposure. This is in turn likely to depend on whether social distancing can be maintained.
- Staff working in a grocery shop – coverings will be mandatory for all staff on the shop floor, and customers. They will not be mandatory in back offices/storage facilities unless the business determines that it is a reasonable measure to comply with their duty to minimise exposure. Again, this is in turn likely to depend on whether social distancing can be maintained.
As the requirements on employers and others set out in this guidance are considered “reasonable measures” under regulation 12 of the Coronavirus Regulations, they are subject to the specific enforcement regime established for that regulation.
The Welsh Government expects that businesses and others understand the severity of the situation we are facing as a society and will take the reasonable steps necessary. However, one reason why the Welsh Government has decided to go beyond guidance and include a duty in law is so that enforcement is possible, where it is necessary.
Both the police and local authorities have powers to enforce the requirements on businesses, services and workplaces imposed by the regulations.
- promote and maintain sustained compliance as a preventative measure to help contain the coronavirus;
- ensure action is taken immediately to deal with situations in which there is a risk of coronavirus spreading; and
- ensure that those who fail to comply are held to account.