Fixer: Can we still enforce mandatory face masks in the workplace?

Some employees have expressed frustration about us keeping the rule

Even though the 19 July deadline has passed and lockdown restrictions have lifted, our policy remains that staff and contractors have to wear face shields for the foreseeable future. However, some of our staff have expressed their annoyance in no uncertain terms about the rule, and a small minority seem to be doing their best to flout it. Where do we stand with enforcing this requirement, and how can we reason with our workforce about why it’s necessary?

Without knowing the sector you work in and the proximity in which employees and contractors work, it’s hard to comment on whether your policy is reasonable or not.

Clearly, the legal requirement has been removed to wear a face covering and it is up to individual employers to determine their own policy with regards to this. However, getting employees onboard with the decision can prove tricky.

We’re assuming that you have completed a Covid risk assessment, so why not share the outputs with employees to help them see why the policy is a sensible idea? Have you considered sharing a date when the policy will be reviewed in line with Covid updates? If people know that there will be a potential end date in sight, they may be more inclined to follow the policy in the meantime.

For those who wish to flout the policy, how far are you willing to enforce it? Do you want to take potentially widespread disciplinary action to mandate face coverings? If you do, think seriously about the potential reputational impact, and make sure you don’t end up discriminating against those who have a medical exemption for the wearing of face coverings.

From a contractor perspective, they should respect and follow applicable procedures when working onsite for you and this should be part of a contract you have agreed with them. As with the above for employees, make sure you are clear on explaining the parameters of it and how far you would be willing to enforce it for contractors.

Husband and wife team Rob and Nicci Birley have run their own full service HR consultancy, Cornerstone Resources, since late 2017, partnering with small businesses and charities throughout the UK. Prior to this, they both spent more than 20 years each working in a range of specialist and generalist HR roles across a range of sectors.

Nicci specialises in management coaching, mentoring, recruitment, change management and improving organisational performance. Rob specialises in complex employee issues and salaries, pensions and benefits.

Their replies are written in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views of People Management or the CIPD, nor are they a substitute for professional legal advice. Not all queries submitted can be answered, and personal replies are not possible. To pose an anonymous query, visit