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Can employer go against govt advice for face masks?

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od244051od244051 Forumite
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The govt says that retail workers don't have to wear face masks when working. My employer is going against this. Can they do this?
I'm asthmatic and tried a face mask twice in four days in supermarkets and could only cope for 30 mins before my chest tightened up and struggled to breathe. Nothing to do with anxiety that some people keep going on about. Took several hours for the tightness to go away. I know some asthmatics can wear masks without problems. Not everyone's asthma is the same - have different triggers and symptoms.

Now my work says that if we are not at a till (which is behind a screen), in the staff areas in the back - warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trade hours, we got to wear a mask or a visor. Ordered my visors - out of my own expense, as my employer may give us visors later on, 10 days ago and not arrived. I'm worried what will happen if my visors will not turn up in time. They cannot force me into wearing a mask. Plus the nature of my job and shop, there's no way I could be on the till 7 hours and not trained on everything at the back.  Also no scarves or snoods allowed due to HnS. Can understand scarves, not snoods as no excess fabric.

I have various badges, lanyard and wristband saying I'm asthmatic.

PS Please do not mention changing jobs as there's nothing where I live.
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  • bazzybbazzyb Forumite
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    An employer can instruct you to wear PPE if it is needed for your role. I can understand them wanting to employees to wear face coverings if customers are required to. 

    I’m no expert but it seems they have said you can wear a visor instead of a mask, which sounds like a reasonable adjustment. 
  • jon81ukjon81uk Forumite
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    If their risk assessment says you need PPE in the warehouse then you need to wear the PPE suggested. I imagine it is because it isn't always possible to maintain 2m distancing. But if you can't wear a mask easily then talk to the person in charge of heath and safety about wearing a visor. Ask to see the risk assessment if you want to find out the reason for the PPE.

    I assume there is already guidance on whether any PPE is needed pre-covid such as wearing gloves, boots or similar?
  • edited 22 July at 9:37AM
    LittleVoiceLittleVoice Forumite
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    edited 22 July at 9:37AM
    od244051 said:
    The govt says that retail workers don't have to wear face masks when working. My employer is going against this. Can they do this?
    I'm asthmatic and tried a face mask twice in four days in supermarkets and could only cope for 30 mins before my chest tightened up and struggled to breathe. Nothing to do with anxiety that some people keep going on about. Took several hours for the tightness to go away. I know some asthmatics can wear masks without problems. Not everyone's asthma is the same - have different triggers and symptoms.

    Now my work says that if we are not at a till (which is behind a screen), in the staff areas in the back - warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trade hours, we got to wear a mask or a visor. Ordered my visors - out of my own expense, as my employer may give us visors later on, 10 days ago and not arrived. I'm worried what will happen if my visors will not turn up in time. They cannot force me into wearing a mask. Plus the nature of my job and shop, there's no way I could be on the till 7 hours and not trained on everything at the back.  Also no scarves or snoods allowed due to HnS. Can understand scarves, not snoods as no excess fabric.

    I have various badges, lanyard and wristband saying I'm asthmatic.

    PS Please do not mention changing jobs as there's nothing where I live.

    If your own visor or one provided by your employer has not arrived by the time you are due to be working, then work at the till for however long is sensible for a single occasion (and it would be silly for anyone to suggest you would be working there without a break for 7 hours).  Then put on a mask and go outside - it would take you less than 30 minutes wearing a mask to get outside, take a break (and this would be without wearing a mask), or help with trolley management outside, and return to the till.  That means you are either wearing a mask for way less than the time you have said you can endure it or you are behind a screen at the till.  Seems like a workaround until the visor arrives.  Discuss this with your manager before Friday so that till rotas can be confirmed.
  • Comms69Comms69 Forumite
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    The short answer is your employer can dictate PPE regardless of what the govt says. regardless if COVID was a thing or not. 
  • TripleHTripleH Forumite
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    I was going to suggest if you tried a different type of face mask as they may sit differently on your face and be less restrictive, but a visor would seem even better. 
     The plastic visor I assume can be cleaned at the end of each day with anti-bacterial spray? (I am asking as have no idea) and would be more durable thsn a cloth mask? 
    If my guess is the case (again no idea) and your employer provides daily disposable face masks then this whilst having a greater up front cost could be cheaper in the long run as we have no idea how long these restrictions will last. 
    Wherever you go, whatever you do Richard Marx is right there waiting for you.

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  • edited 22 July at 9:51AM
    LittleVoiceLittleVoice Forumite
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    edited 22 July at 9:51AM
    od244051 said:
    . .  .
    Now my work says that if we are not at a till (which is behind a screen), in the staff areas in the back - warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trade hours, we got to wear a mask or a visor. Ordered my visors - out of my own expense, as my employer may give us visors later on, 10 days ago and not arrived. . . .   Plus the nature of my job and shop,
    I think the first sentence is saying that, except when someone is working behind a screen at a till, they have to wear a mask or visor whether that is in a warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trading hours on the shop floor.  Presumably that also means when you move between those places and a shielded till.
    What is the nature of the shop which makes things difficult?  Is it one with many self-serve tills without staffed tills being open all the time?
    What is the nature of your job which makes things difficult?  Is it that you are required to do a lot of shelf re-stocking during trading hours or that you are managing other staff and need to be constantly walking around?

    How many visors did you order?  Surely one is enough as they should be easy to disinfect after each wearing.
  • edited 22 July at 9:56AM
    elsienelsien Forumite
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    edited 22 July at 9:56AM
    Although you can't wear a snood for elf n safety reasons, you seem to be implying that wearing a snood or scarf would otherwise be ok. Out of interest, what's the difference between covering your mouth and nose with a snood, and covering it with a mask, as far as asthma goes?
    Have you tried the Asthma UK advice of wearing it for shorter periods at home to get used to it, to see if that makes a difference? 
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • od244051od244051 Forumite
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    od244051 said:
    . .  .
    Now my work says that if we are not at a till (which is behind a screen), in the staff areas in the back - warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trade hours, we got to wear a mask or a visor. Ordered my visors - out of my own expense, as my employer may give us visors later on, 10 days ago and not arrived. . . .   Plus the nature of my job and shop,
    I think the first sentence is saying that, except when someone is working behind a screen at a till, they have to wear a mask or visor whether that is in a warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trading hours on the shop floor.  Presumably that also means when you move between those places and a shielded till.
    What is the nature of the shop which makes things difficult?  Is it one with many self-serve tills without staffed tills being open all the time?
    What is the nature of your job which makes things difficult?  Is it that you are required to do a lot of shelf re-stocking during trading hours or that you are managing other staff and need to be constantly walking around?

    How many visors did you order?  Surely one is enough as they should be easy to disinfect after each wearing.
    The nature of my work means that we do a bit of till work, bit of shelf filling/dressing, bit of queue management etc. No-one does the same job all day. The seven hours I quoted was the time I'm at work minus breaks. 

    I have tried wearing different styles of masks at home whilst watching TV etc and still not one I can wear for more than 30 mins. Ordered 5 shields as it only £2 more than ordering 1.
  • TBagpussTBagpuss Forumite
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    Can I ask whether you have tried different types of masks?
    I am also an asthmatic as are a couple of my colleagues.
    Two of us have found that we can't wear the masks provided at work (which are disposable, single use, 'surgical' style ones) without getting wheezy but are OK with hand made cotton ones, the third asthmatic is fine with the disposable ones. For each of us it took a bit of trial and error to find ones we could wear, and those of us wearing the cotton ones found that we each needed different styles, so exactly how they fit seems to make a difference as well as what they are made of.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • Grumpy_chapGrumpy_chap Forumite
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    od244051 said:
    The govt says that retail workers don't have to wear face masks when working. My employer is going against this. Can they do this?

    Now my work says that if we are not at a till (which is behind a screen), in the staff areas in the back - warehouse, office, staff room or working outside trade hours, we got to wear a mask or a visor. 

    The employer is not going against Government advice - they are going beyond the minimum which is entirely permitted in this regard as in any other.  For example, I am sure there are people quite happy to receive more than the minimum wage when the employer goes beyond the minimum.

    I also think that it will become the norm for staff in public areas of shops to wear face mask as otherwise it makes a mokery of customers needing to wear a face mask and there will be uproar / anarchy.

    OP may also like this thread:
    https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/discussion/6169319/doctors-note-cost-face-mask/p1
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