Face coverings are about to become mandatory in England's shops from July 24 - but not everyone has to wear them.

The charity Hidden Disabilities has created a face mask exemption card for anyone with the right requirements to be exempt from the law.

Who is exempt in England?

The government website reads: "In settings where face coverings are mandated in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings.

"Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings.

"It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings, although employers should consider recommending their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place.

"For example, there will be times when screens or visors are in use, or when a staff member is not in close proximity to people they do not normally meet, and so wearing a covering for staff will not be necessary. Employers should continue to follow COVID-19 secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees."

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • young children under the age of 11
  • not being able to 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 travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
  • There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
  • If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
  • If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication

Who is exempt in Scotland?

In Scotland, face coverings became mandatory in shops from July 10.

The Scottish Government website reads: "You may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if, for example, you have a health condition or you are disabled and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety or because you cannot apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently. 

"Individual discretion should be applied in considering the use of face coverings for other children including, for example, children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering".

Other exemptions include children under five, staff physically seperate by means of screens, you need to take medication, or you are communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading.

Full exemptions can be found here.

Knutsford Guardian:

What is the Hidden Disablities card?

According to the charity website, the Hidden Disabilities face-covering exempt card "indicates that the wearer has a hidden disability and has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering."

It added: "Businesses who are members of the scheme are aware of our card and provide support, help, assistance or simply a little more time to those wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

"However, please note that shops and public transport can still refuse you entry if you are not wearing a face covering."

What does the card look like?

 The card is on waterproof and writable paper and can fit inside a lanyard to be worn when going inside shops.

It has a message which reads "My hidden disability makes me exempt from wearing a face covering". 

Knutsford Guardian:

How can I get a card?

The face covering exemption card is availble for 55p from the charity's store.

This can be found here.

Can shop owners still refuse me entry?

Yes, shop owners and public transport are still at their own discretion as to who they will and will not enter in their store. 

They can, if they feel necessary, call the police. 

Fixed penalty notices - which start at £60 - could be handed out by the police, but she says they will do so only at a last resort.