Now that we have entered, “Lockdown Lite” with some shops, restaurants, and beauty venues re-opening, it might be a good time to look at the law and how it relates to mask wearing.
It is fair to say that most people don’t mind wearing a mask and 99% of the time, mask wearing is not an issue. But there are a number of people who don’t wear a mask because of medical reasons and some people simply refuse.
What does the law say?
Government guidance is a good starting point.
The most relevant information is here on the Government website.
Usefully, this lists places where you must wear a face mask, including public transport, shops, supermarkets and restaurants. Not wearing a face mask leaves you open to being fined by the police.
However, this does not mean that anyone else, such as business and property owners, have any related powers, such as banning people or excluding them from their premises.
Property owners do have the right to call the police, but if they try to enforce a blanket ban themselves such as “No mask no entry” then this could be disability discrimination.
Why Disability Discrimination might be cited by non-mask wearers.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for a provider of services to the public to discriminate against someone. This means a shop or restaurant for example, that is open to the public, may be in danger of disability discrimination if it decides to ban someone from entering without a mask.
Whilst a private establishment, that is not open to the public, can refuse entry to someone who is not wearing a mask, for public buildings the guidance is different.
The government states that “if you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering then you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this.”
And there you have it. If you have a disability, you do not have to show any evidence of it.
That’s because The Equality Act states that “A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
There is therefore NO requirement for any written proof or previous diagnosis to have a disability in law.
Providers of services can ask people why they are not wearing a mask, but they have no right to a written or even a verbal answer.
You cannot ban someone just because they don’t wear a mask.
You have no right to physically exclude a person and if you resort to shaming or embarrassing that person in public then you could be exposing yourself and your employers to a potential claim in disability discrimination.
You may be fined if you do the wrong thing.
A disabled woman assisted by not-for-profit organisation, Kester Disability Rights, has been paid £7,000 in compensation by a service provider who refused her access to a service because she was unable to wear a face mask.
Kester recommends that simply saying, “I’m exempt” is all someone needs to say.
For more details see: https://disabilityrights.org.uk/news/page-4
They even provide a standard template letter to claim for compensation.
If you have any questions regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact Justin Sadler on [email protected] or 01189589711.
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Justin deals with all aspects of Dispute Resolution for both businesses and individuals, including including Contentious Probate, Employment Law ( for both businesses and individuals) and Commercial Litigation. This means that he is familiar with the many different courts and tribunal as well as the many different methods for resolving disputes, including alternative dispute resolution such as adjudication and mediation.