Six exemptions so you can refuse to wear a face mask and not face fines

Six exemptions so you can refuse to wear a face mask and not face fines

As Boris Johnson announces tougher fines people flouting coronavirus restrictions, Brits across the land will be packing face masks in their bags when they leave the house.

Face coverings have been mandatory on public transport since June 15, and in stores, supermarkets, takeaways and cinemas since July 24.

However, the latest restrictions make them compulsory in taxis and all hospitality venues – unless you are sat at a table to eat – and staff in pubs, restaurants and shops are no longer exempt.

On Monday, Boris Johnson announced that face masks will be compulsory for shop workers, while fines for not wearing masks will double to £200.

They double on each repeat offence to a maximum of £6,400 if you get caught a sixth time.

But most of the key exemptions have not changed. So let’s remind ourselves about when you do not need to wear one.

If you have a health condition

People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability – do not have to wear one.

So if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or lung cancer, you have a reasonable excuse.

The website Autism Eye said the rules around ‘reasonable excuses’ also cover passengers with autism.

You will also not get in trouble if you to take a mask off to take medication.

What is your view? Have your say in the comments below

Police officers and other emergency workers

Police officers and other emergency workers are exempt, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.

This only applies when they are on duty, of course, and they can choose to wear one.

Paramedics, firefighters and border force officers are included in the exemption.


As with public transport, children under 11 will not have to wear a face covering.

Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons.

Also, young people asked to prove their age with a railcard or a form of ID can remove it to show their face to an official.

If you are with a person who has impaired hearing

The Government states you are exempt if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate.

In this situation, it is of course vital that the person you are travelling with can see your face.

If you are at risk of harm or to avoid harming others

The Government states you have a reasonable excuse to not wear a mask if it is to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others.

This includes if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity.

Severe distress

Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress, you are exempt.

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering

  • if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • if required in order to receive treatment or services, for example when getting a facial
  • in order to take medication
  • if you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship
  • if you are the persons getting married in a relevant place
  • if you are aged 11 to 18 attending a faith school and having lessons in a place of worship as part of your core curriculum
  • if you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so
  • if you are an elite sports person, professional dancer or referee acting in the course of your employment
  • when seated to eat or drink in a hospitality premise such as a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking

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