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Retail trade union Usdaw criticises Government face mask guidance

Tom Shearsmith
15 July 2021

As ‘Freedom Day’ approaches on 19 July and shopping can supposedly return to pre-pandemic normality, retail trade union Usdaw has criticised the Government over its face mask guidance, which it suggests "weakens safety and risks abuse of shopworkers".

In the new guidance it has been confirmed that the requirement to wear a face covering will no longer be legally enforceable in England but that it “expects and recommends” those who can should continue to wear one.

According to new research by delivery expert ParcelHero, 68.5% of consumers want mask wearing and social distancing measures retained after 19 July, and the relaxations will damage consumer confidence and drive shoppers back online – doing more harm than good.

Paddy Lilli, Usdaw General Secretary 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.”

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