When you do not need to wear a face covering:

Face coverings are only legally required in the settings listed in ‘When to wear a face covering’ section above. Settings which are exempt from wearing a face covering because it would not be practical to do so include:

  • restaurants, cafés and canteens

  • pubs, bars and shisha bars

  • gyms and exercise facilities (including dance studios)

  • leisure centres, swimming pools, and water and aqua parks

  • photography studios

  • nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • children under the age of 11 (The UK Health Security Agency does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)

  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

  • people for whom putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress

  • people speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate

  • to avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others

  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering:

  • if asked to do so for identification in premises such as a bank, building society or post office

  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist) or for age identification purposes, including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol

  • in order to take medication

  • when it is reasonably necessary to sing, for example – as part of a choir, service, rehearsal or performance

If you have disability which prevents you from wearing a mask and you are treated worse because of this, you may also be protected by the Equality Act.

If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:

You do not need to prove that you are exempt from wearing a mask. There is no legal document or proof that you need to carry on you.

If you are challenged about not wearing a mask, you could:

  • Tell the person why, if you feel able to. Try saying “I am exempt for health reasons”, or “I have a good reason that you can’t see. Please be kind”.

  • Write down your reason and show it to people. This could be written on a piece of paper, or displayed on your phone.

  • Consider printing or downloading an exemption card. These are not required at all, but might make you feel more at ease when explaining to others.

Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

If you wish to use an exemption card or badge, you can download exemption card templates. You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device. Please note that the government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges.

At the moment, the government says people will not be asked to show written evidence of a medical exemption if they are not wearing a face mask – with the public, supermarkets and shops urged to be mindful towards those who may have special circumstances.

But those who are concerned about being stopped for not wearing a face covering can download an official exemption card or badge.

However carrying a card is a personal choice and is not necessary in law, says the government.

You can  you can get an exemption card for free from the government here.

It’s in the form of a downloadable PDF file that you can save and view on your phone. They also offer a version that you can print out at home

Alternatively, the charity Hidden Disabilities has produced their own exemption card or anyone with the right requirements to be exempt from the law.

This card simply indicates that you have a hidden disability, illness or impairment and have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face-covering.

It costs 55p – with a lanyard available separately.


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