The union is concerned that health secretary Matt Hancock has not confirmed that the government will seek to engage with them and retailers on providing detailed guidance for wearing face masks and coverings in shops.
Health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday confirmed that the wearing of face coverings will become mandatory in shops in England from 24 July 2020.
Announcing the new rule and explaining the reasons behind it, Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population.”
He went on to add: “There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.”
While they agree with the move to make face masks compulsory in shops and supermarkets, shopworker’s union Usdaw highlighted the lack of clear guidance from the government on implementing and enforcing the new rule.
Usdaw’s general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is right to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory in shops, but there must now be clear and detailed guidance from the government. We urge them to develop and agree that with Usdaw and retail employers, as we successfully did on joint safety guidance for the reopening of high street shops with the British Retail Consortium. We had hoped to have heard that in today’s Commons statement, but the commitment wasn’t forthcoming.
“It is still not clear who will enforce the wearing of face coverings, with Matt Hancock today saying that shops would be expected to turn customers away. Usdaw expects the guidance to make it clear that shop workers will not be enforcing the wearing of face coverings. They are already dealing with more abuse than normal and this could be another flashpoint.”
As well as raising the issue of how to enforce the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops, Mr Lillis also urged the government to firm up their guidance on the two-metre social distancing guidelines in stores.
He added: “We also need assurances that guidance will confirm that the established two-metre social distancing will remain, along with screens at tills, existing hygiene facilities and limiting the number of shoppers in-store at any one time.”
“Today’s statement leaves many questions unanswered. We also need a public information campaign to explain the correct use of face coverings, who is exempt, and the importance of maintaining existing social distancing and hygiene measures.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said she supports the new rule but warned that retailers must not be responsible for enforcing it.
She said: “With hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse directed at retail staff every day, we welcome the announcement that enforcement will be left to the authorities, rather than potentially putting hardworking retail colleagues in harm’s way.”