The House of Lords has warned new rules on customers wearing face masks in stores have put supermarket staff at risk and may have to be reviewed.
A new report on the rules, which came into force in England on 24 July, highlights concerns over staff being expected to “take reasonable steps” to encourage customer compliance under the legislation, despite police being in change of enforcement overall.
The Grocer has previously reported how the introduction of the new laws has led to a spike in violence and aggressive behaviour towards staff, who have been encouraged by most supermarkets to wear a mask or visor but under the laws do not have to wear them.
“Enforcement methods and various exemptions for the non-wearing of face coverings broadly mirror the existing legislation that requires face coverings to be worn on public transport,” says the report by the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.
“Although enforcement is a matter for the police and specified officials, government guidance says: ‘Businesses should take reasonable steps to encourage customer compliance’.
“Shop managers and their employees are, however, exempt from an obligation to wear a face covering.
“The committee recognises that there are practical reasons for this difference in requirement to wear a face covering, (uncomfortable to wear for long periods on duty for example), but suggests it can reasonably be anticipated that difficulties may arise where staff in shops, who are not wearing face coverings, ask a member of the public to put one on.”
The committee concludes: “The government should keep the implementation and effectiveness of this policy and any sensitivities arising from it under close scrutiny”
Lord Hodgson, chair of the committee, added: “When we discussed this issue, the committee had real concerns that staff in shops asking customers to wear a face covering could find themselves in a potentially difficult position if customers challenge them in return on why they aren’t wearing face coverings themselves.
“We recognise the reasons for these different requirements but note that the government must continue to monitor how effectively this policy can be implemented.”