Across the UK, face coverings are mandatory in certain indoor settings such as shops, on public transport and in hospitals. But there are exceptions allowed for a range of reasons, including certain health conditions or categories of worker.
There’s no requirement to prove that you are exempt (although guidelines state you must have a valid reason). However, some people have experienced issues when they’re in settings such as these and aren’t wearing a mask, and have been challenged by other members of the public.
Hopefully, this won’t be a problem, as we have all been made aware that some people are exempt, and to keep this in mind and treat others with kindness.
But, if you’re concerned, there are now a number of badges and exemption cards available that you can wear if you want to signpost to others why you aren’t wearing a mask.
Face covering exemption cards: what’s available and how to get them
There are various options, from free downloadable government badges to bright yet discreet sunflower badges and exemption cards from various charities.
None are particularly pricey, but it’s worth knowing there are free options available to download to your phone or print out.
UK government face covering exemption badge
The government exemption badge is nice and clear, and free to download from gov.uk.
It simply says ‘I am exempt from wearing a face covering’ and also has a little icon reminding people to keep their distance.
It comes in several formats:
- Round printable badge
- Printable folding leaflet
- Downloadable phone version
There’s another badge available (in the same formats) that asks others to remove their face covering so the badge wearer can understand them better.
The page also has plenty of detailed information on the exemptions and suggests that if you can’t download the badge, you could make your own homemade sign if you want to display something, as there’s no requirement for it to be official.
Other face mask exemption cards and badges
There are plenty of other badges and cards available to download or buy, often created by charities representing groups with health issues that may mean they are exempt, or by transport networks.
Here are some of the other options and how much they cost (if anything):
- Transport for London (TfL) Has a free downloadable PDF that you can show on your phone or print out and make into a card.
- Asthma UK Has a free graphic you can download to your phone explaining you are exempt because of breathing problems.
- British Lung Foundation Also offers a free downloadable exemption because of breathing problems.
- Disability Equality Scotland Has downloadable cards where you can choose to say whether your exemption is based on a health condition or a disability.
- Disability Horizons Sell a durable face covering exemption card made of acrylic which costs £3.95 with a badge clip or £4.95 with a lanyard (that has ‘mask exempt’ printed on it in large letters.
You can also purchase a card and lanyard (£4.95) to alert people to keep their distance from the wearer because their health condition could make them higher risk if they catch COVID-19.
- Hidden Disabilities Sell a face covering exemption card for 55p, plus postage.
If you want the sunflower lanyard and clear wallet so you can wear the card round your neck, it’s an extra £1.05.
You can also buy badges with a discreet sunflower for 60p which will alert those trained to recognise the logo that the wearer may need extra help.
Who is exempt from face covering rules?
You are exempt from wearing a mask if you are:
- Under the age of 11 in England or Wales (under the age of five in Scotland and under the age of 13 in Northern Ireland)
- Someone who can’t put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- an employee in an indoor setting
- A police officer or other emergency worker
- If you’re speaking to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- Risking harm or injury to yourself or others by doing so.
There are also scenarios where you can remove your mask temporarily such as if you’re asked to do so in a bank or the Post Office for identification.
A full list of scenarios and exemptions can be found on the UK government guide to face coverings.
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