Should you stop asking your employees to wear face coverings at work given the change in government guidance on this.
As an organisation your employer’s duty of care to safeguard the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees has not changed just because the Government says that people don’t have to wear face coverings anymore. When making a decision, you should consider the nature of the workforce and listen to individual concerns. There are likely to be some employees who can’t wait not to have to wear a face-covering anymore. However, as face coverings are worn to protect people around an individual rather than the wearer themselves, there are also likely to be a number of employees who are concerned about the implications of not wearing a face covering. For example, you might have a lot of young staff who have not had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated yet, or vulnerable/extremely vulnerable staff who are concerned about colleagues not wearing face coverings.
You should review its coronavirus risk assessments in view of the changes. This will help you to decide on which controls, such as the continued wearing of face coverings, might need to be retained. Then you should update your policy on face coverings in the workplace and communicate it to all staff, so employees know where they stand.
If you decide to make face coverings mandatory in the workplace, you should remember that some employees may continue to be exempt.
Alternatively, a policy may be that face coverings are no longer required but staff can wear a face covering if they want to, or that face coverings are required only in certain circumstances, such as meetings over a certain size, etc.
You should be prepared for possible resistance from whichever group has not got their preferred outcome. Employees should be expected to comply with workplace rules set by organisations. However, to manage any such resistance, you should listen to individual circumstances and explain how these have been taken into account in your risk assessments.
Bear in mind that it’s not just in the actual workplace that employees may be concerned; public transport may be a worry to some employees, if others are no longer wearing face coverings, especially at peak travel times.
You should have a clear, reasonable policy and be prepared to justify your approach.