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Union Usdaw criticises government face mask policy

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

15 Jul 2021

Retail

Image: Unsplash by Arturo Rey

Retail trade union Usdaw said that it is “deeply disappointed” by the Government scrapping important Covid safety legislation for retail in England from July 19, including face mask-wearing and social distancing.

The Government states that it “expects and recommends” in shops and crowded places such as public transport for shoppers to wear a face covering, each retailer and business can decide what safety guidance it will implement in its store.

In response to the guidance Paddy Lillis, general secretary at shopworkers union Usdaw, said: “We are very disappointed that the Government has not consulted broadly with unions and employers on this guidance. So what they have now published, just a few days before it comes into force, provides no assurances for staff or employers. It is a real mess. Protection for retail workers through wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing in busy public areas like shops should be backed up by the law.

“In the absence of clarity and leadership from the Government, we are asking employers to think about their duty of care to staff and promote existing safety measures to the shopping public. We also ask customers to show their support for shopworkers by continuing to wear face coverings, observe hand hygiene and maintain social distancing.

“Retail staff already face unacceptable levels of abuse and making Covid safety measures guidance only, instead of having the force of law behind them, will create confusion and put more shopworkers at risk.

“Wearing a face covering is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with the public. Many retail workers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families. They have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country fed and deserve to be valued, respected and protected.”