It is interesting to read of the apparent U-turn in approach to the wearing of face coverings. Currently face coverings are only required in England on public transport but it looks as though that will change from next week when coverings are also to be worn in shops (as is already the case in Scotland). This begs the question, will other workplaces be next and should employers be requiring staff to wear coverings?
Certainly, face coverings are not, and should not be, a replacement for better ways of managing risk in the workplace, such as social distancing, changing ways of working and increased cleaning practices. However, where the recommended social distancing cannot be implemented, face coverings could be better than nothing, not least because they may help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace where the wearer is infected but has not yet developed symptoms.
Whether employers can insist on the wearing of face coverings will depend upon whether this is a reasonable instruction in all the circumstances and employers will need to be mindful of any protected characteristics, such as underlying health conditions, which might prevent an employee from wearing one.
It remains to be seen whether the use of face coverings at work is the future for us all.
Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.