How will your workers challenge anti-mask behaviour from customers?

With the prospect of a £100 fine if customers refuse to wear one, how is that likely to be enforced in-store?

As we continue to navigate a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government recently announced that all shoppers in UK retail outlets must wear a face mask from Friday this week. But even when faced with the prospect of a £100 fine if you refuse to wear one, how is that likely to be enforced by workers in-store? Some commentators are rightly pointing out that the responsibility for enforcement seems to be slightly ambiguous. Whilst most would probably suggest that it’s a matter for the Police, some employers are proactively looking to reduce friction points with a supply of masks in-store, and some believe that enforcement will come from the self-regulation of the British public [1].

Whilst most people are unlikely to take issue with wearing a mask, they can be more divisive than you might think. An example of which was highlighted widely across social media last week, as MP Sir Desmond Swayne referred to the prospect of shopping with a mask as a ‘monstrous imposition’ [2] and with a growing number of anti-mask demonstrations taking place around the UK continuing to be publicised [3].

In addition, the various control measures being put in place can give a worker and shopper several issues to navigate. Clearly, it is harder to communicate, with an increased likelihood of people needing to shout to be heard – and the potential for perceived or actual frustration. All of which can potentially lead to arguments and aggression, which has been seen in several reports in a number of different countries, typically where the ‘return to work’ process is running ahead of that in the UK [4].

The role of personal safety technology:

Discreet, wearable technology can help support staff involved in a tense, possible verbal abuse situation. But it can also help an employer to effectively document aggression to personnel and highlight locations where problems exist or where additional support and training is needed. This serves to equip staff to better reduce risk, and enhance lone worker protection.

In addition, it can also be used to facilitate support directly from the Police – where an accredited monitoring centre can comprehensively assess the nature of a situation, and swiftly verify that an incident is suitable for escalation, specifically in-line with Police guidelines.

Protecting staff, meeting duty of care, and the creation of an effective personal safety culture can reduce the cost to an organisation and ensure that your employees feel safe and supported in these challenging times.


[1] Wired, ‘Masks will soon be mandatory but nobody wants to enforce the rules’, Nicole Kobie, 20th July 2020.
[2] Sky News, ‘Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne attacks face masks in shops order’, Aubrey Allegretti, 14th July 2020.
[3] Sky News, 'Coronavirus: Anti-mask activists protest against order to wear face coverings', Ivor Bennett, 20th July 2020.
[4] New York Times, ‘Who’s Enforcing Mask Rules? Often Retail Workers, and They’re Getting Hurt’, Neil MacFarquhar, 15th May 2020.

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