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Do customers and staff now have to wear face coverings in dealerships? We explain the new rules

Time 1:46 pm, September 22, 2020

The subject of face coverings has been spoken about since the start of lockdown – and the prime minister has announced today (September 22) that they will become compulsory in retail spaces from Thursday.

It followed on from Scotland where it’s been the law since July 10, but there have been conflicting messages from the government relating to the measures for England, with the full guidance only being published less than 12 hours before they came into force today.

But do dealers come under the guidelines? Here, we clear up the confusion for you in this guide.

What is the new guidance?

In England, members of the public and staff will need to wear face coverings – for example, a fabric covering, scarf, bandana or mask – that covers the nose and mouth in enclosed public and retail spaces. The fine has also now doubled and anyone caught not sticking to the rules will be liable to a £200 fine from the police.

Are dealerships regarded as retail spaces?

Just like guidelines surrounding local lockdowns, dealers aren’t mentioned specifically as being a shop or a retail space, but it’s implied they are. Read on to find out why.

This is confusing, right?

Just a bit. Until the morning of July 23, the government was facing intense criticism for not being clear with the new guidance, specifically around sandwich shops.

Until Thursday July 23, it was thought that because people pop into a sandwich shop and don’t stay for any length of time they were exempt. But as of 9am on July 23, the government confirmed that sandwich shops were included as they’re a ‘retail space’ just like a car showroom. It finally issued the full guidance later the same day – less than 12 hours before it came into force.

So, do customers have to wear face coverings?

Yes, they do – unless they’re exempt. The wearing of face masks is designed to offer protection to the wearer and all those around them, so face coverings are now mandatory in dealership showrooms. Following on from earlier prohibitions, the new guidance explicitly states: ‘Face coverings will be mandatory in additional enclosed public spaces.’ So, as a showroom is an enclosed public space, it’s safe to assume that it falls under the new rules, therefore customers must wear a face covering.

Secondly, since many dealers have been arguing that they are retail premises for the purpose of gaining business rate relief and coronavirus grants, it’s very likely the government will use the same definition regarding face masks.

Do dealership staff have to wear face coverings?

Anyone working in retail will need to wear a face covering at work – and if we take the previous rule, that will include car dealers.

In his speech to parliament, Boris Johnson said: ‘We will include the requirement to wear face masks to include all staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

‘In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach the rules.’

Johnson added that the £10,000 fines imposed on those who don’t quarantine will now also be applied to businesses breaking Covid rules.

What if a customer refuses to wear a face covering?

It isn’t the responsibility of businesses or their employees to enforce the rules, it’s up to the police to do so. However, businesses can refuse entry to people who aren’t wearing a face covering and who aren’t exempt from the rules. The Metropolitan Police has said it will only enforce the rules ‘as a last resort’ – that is, if the customer won’t leave or if they become aggressive. The Trades Union Congress has also called on employers to demonstrate via risk assessments how they will protect staff from any kind of abuse by a customer.

Does every customer have to wear a face covering?

Simple answer, no. The exceptions are:

  • Children under the age of 11
  • Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • To avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • To eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • To take medication
  • If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

Can customers still drink a hot drink in our reception area?

Yes they can, but they have to stick to the guidance which says ‘customers are expected to wear a face covering before entering any shop or supermarket and must keep this on until they leave. If a shop or supermarket has a café or seating area, then the customer can remove their face covering in this area only. They must put a face covering back on once they leave the seating area’.

How do I wear a mask and where can I buy them?

Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and fit securely against the side of the face. Washing your hands before you touch the mask and put it on is essential and the mask should remain on – it shouldn’t be dangling from one ear or pushed down on to the neck, for example. You should also wash your hands before taking the mask off and after you’ve removed it. Face masks can be ordered from a large number of high street names and online marketplaces.

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This post was originally published at 12pm on July 23. 
Updated: 7.42am, July 24
Updated: 11.52am, August 11
Updated: 13.46pm, September 22

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James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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