Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces

Guidance for businesses and workplaces - including laboratories and research facilities - on reducing the risk of COVID-19 and supporting staff and customers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces
Face coverings

Face coverings

The overall position on face coverings and the exemptions that apply has not changed.

Face coverings are mandatory in most indoor public places and indoor communal spaces, including, restaurants, cafes, bars and public houses, and in workplaces and on public transport. It also continues to be mandatory for face coverings to be worn in all indoor retail settings and storage and distribution facilities, including communal staff areas, unless there is a relevant exemption.

We have published a list of areas where face coverings are mandatory. This includes any indoor communal areas in a workplace and where there are no measures in place to keep people separated by either a partition or distance of at least one metre.

Communal areas in the workplace are those where people mingle or gather. Some examples of communal areas are:

  • entrances and exits to buildings
  • workstations (including open planned spaces)
  • staff rooms
  • stairs
  • lifts
  • training rooms
  • breakout areas
  • meeting rooms
  • changing rooms
  • corridors

You may wish to refer to the following scenario examples.

Example A

Sam’s team works in an open plan office. Each of their desks is positioned so that staff can maintain one-metre physical distancing. Sam and their colleagues can remove their face coverings while sat at their desk. This is because there are measures in place to keep people separated by a distance of at least one metre.

Example B

Taylor's team works in an office which is unable to maintain one-metre physical distancing between desks. Taylor’s employer has installed Perspex screens between the desks so that Taylor’s team can remove their face coverings  while sat at their desk. This is because people are separated by a partition.

Example C

Sam is on a break at work. The indoor break area has partitions set up on the table tops to ensure that everyone can be comfortable in the small space. People must wear their face coverings to the break area but may remove them when seated in the partitioned areas only. If there are no partitions, they must continue to wear their face coverings. Sam could also remove their face covering if eating or drinking in an area without partitions, because of the exemption.

Example D

Taylor is working in a storeroom and because of the layout of the shelves, there are areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Everyone must wear their face coverings while working in the storeroom.

We published more advice on face coverings, including which exemptions apply.


Face covering exemptions continue to apply for staff, including in customer-facing areas, if there is one-metre physical distancing or a partition such as a perspex screen between staff and customers (or between staff members in communal areas of the workplace). Even where perspex screens are in place or one-metre distancing can be maintained at all times, we would still encourage staff to wear face coverings.

A number of exemptions also apply to the following sectors:

  • weddings, civil partnerships and funerals – there is an exemption in place for the person leading the eulogy at a funeral, the couple getting married or entering a civil partnership, and guests accompanying one of the parties getting married or entering a civil partnership down the aisle
  • close contact services – a client/customer may temporarily remove a face covering to allow access to their mouth/nose area, as long as the person/practitioner providing the treatment/service is wearing appropriate protective equipment as detailed in close contact guidance



First published: 6 Aug 2021 Last updated: 14 Sep 2021 -