Last updated: July 7, 2022
Facemasks and coverings help to limit the volume and travel distance of droplets and aerosol particles (when we talk, cough or sneeze), including those that could potentially contain virus particles, particularly Coronavirus particles. Evidence shows that a superior quality facemask or covering can provide an effective barrier.
Facemasks are no longer legally required, unless you work in a health and social care setting. However, it is advised that you still wear them in crowded public locations.
How to wear a facemask
The facemask or covering must cover both your mouth and nose and must fit snugly against the sides of your face, leaving no gaps.
Do not wear a mask that is too loose on the sides.
You should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before putting your facemask on and after removing it.
Use the loops that go around your ear to put the facemask on or take it off, without touching the facemask.
If your facemask is reusable, make sure to wash it after use. If your facemask is not reusable, make sure to discard it in a place where you (or anyone else) will not come into physical contact with it.
Where are facemasks required?
Currently, it is not mandatory to wear facemasks in the UK, unless you work in the Health and Social Care sector. However, it is advised that you wear them in enclosed public spaces or health care settings as you will be at higher risk of catching the virus.
Private businesses and employers may still ask employees or the public to continue to wear facemasks whilst on their premises. We would advise that you check your workplace policy for your specific workplace’s guidance on facemasks.
Do I have to wear a facemask at work?
This will depend on:
- Whether there is a legal requirement for you to wear one in your setting.
- Whether your company policy mandates it.
- If you are medically exempt.
If there is no requirement or mandate, but you would like to wear a facemask at work, you can do so, and your employer cannot tell you not to.
Typically, if you work in a public setting such as a school, cinema or in retail or in a health and social care setting, you may still be expected to wear a facemask, however there is no legal requirement for you to do so.
If your workplace policy or employer notes a facemask must be worn, you normally must.
If you are disabled and cannot wear a facemask or have a health condition which wearing a facemask affects, you should ask your employer to make a reasonable adjustment for you. See our information on reasonable adjustments for more information.
People at work are not wearing facemasks – what can be done?
In the first instance, talk to your employer. It is their duty to make sure you are safe at work, and this will include asking colleagues or members of the public to wear facemasks when on the premises. Even though it is no longer a legal requirement, employers can still encourage the use of facemasks to keep employees and the public safe.
If you are disabled or have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to coronavirus, your employer will have to consider this request as a reasonable adjustment.
What are the types of facemasks available?
Reusable facemasks – these are available in a variety of materials such as fabric, silk, or cotton with pleats to fit snugly around the face. They typically have multiple layers or a pocket between layers where a filter can be inserted to provide additional protection against aerosol and droplets. These are the most recommended type of facemask as they can be washed any number of times and do not pose as much of an impact to the environment as disposable masks.
Disposable facemasks – These are typically required for medical appointments. Disposable masks are made of several layers of polypropylene and are either pleated, flat or moulded to the face. It will be worth bearing in mind that disposable masks pose an environmental threat, and the cost of purchasing them regularly can build up over time.
Semi-reusable facemasks – These are made from similar materials to disposable face masks but can be worn and washed a set number of times before needing to be replaced.
Clear panel facemasks – The introduction of face masks and coverings introduced a communication issue for those who rely on lip reading to communicate, which clear panel face masks circumvent. The typical clear panel mask will be fabric with a transparent panel sewn in to show the wearer’s mouth. These are available as reusable and disposable. The primary issue with clear panel face masks is that they can steam up easily, obscuring the wearer’s mouth.
Face shields – Face shields are typically made from PET or polycarbonate plastic sheets along with an elastic band to fit around the wearer’s head. Face shields should not be used as a replacement for face masks as they only protect from splashes and sprays with no prevention against droplets/aerosols that can seep around the sides. If wearing a face shield, pair with a facemask.
If you need help or advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 389 6332.