Across the UK, face coverings are mandatory in certain indoor settings such as shops, public transport and hospitals. But there are exceptions allowed for a range of reasons, including certain health conditions or categories of workers.
There is no requirement to prove that you are exempt (although the guidelines state that you must have a valid reason). However, some people have encountered problems when in such environments and not wearing masks, and have been challenged by other members of the public.
Hopefully that won’t be a problem, as we’ve all been told that some people are exempt, and to keep that in mind and treat others with kindness.
But, if you’re worried, there are now a number of badges and exemption cards you can wear if you want to let others know why you’re not wearing a mask.
Face covering exemption cards: what’s available and how to get them
There are different options, from free downloadable government badges to shiny but discreet sunflower badges and exemption cards from various charities.
None are particularly expensive, but be aware that there are free options to download to your phone or print.
UK government face covering exemption badge
The government exemption badge is nice and clear, and can be downloaded for free from gov.uk.
It simply says “I am exempt from wearing a face covering” and also features a small icon reminding people to keep their distance.
It comes in several formats:
- Round printable badge
- printable flyer
- Downloadable phone version
There is another badge available (in the same formats) that requires others to remove their face coverings so the badge wearer can better understand them.
The page also has lots of detailed information on the exemptions and suggests that if you can’t download the badge you can make your own homemade sign if you want to display something as it doesn’t have to be official .
Other face mask exemption cards and badges
There are many other badges and cards available for download or purchase, often created by charities representing groups with health issues which may mean they are exempt, or by transportation networks.
Here are some of the other options and how much they cost (if any):
- Transport to London (TfL) Has a free downloadable PDF that you can view on your phone or print and turn into a card.
Many other bus and train companies such as Arriva, First Bus and Stagecoach also offer their own versions of a downloadable chart.
You can also buy badges with an inconspicuous sunflower for 60p which will warn people trained to recognize the logo that the wearer may need some extra help.
Who is exempt from the face covering rules?
You are exempt from wearing a mask if you are:
- Under 11 in England or Wales (under five in Scotland and under 13 in Northern Ireland)
- Someone who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering due to physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- an employee in an indoor environment
- A policeman or other first aider
- If you’re talking to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound, or facial expressions to communicate
- Risk injury to yourself or others by doing so.
There are also scenarios where you can remove your mask temporarily, such as if you are asked to do so at a bank or at the post office for identification.
A complete list of scenarios and exemptions is available on the UK government guide to face coverings.
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