Mandatory masks: Are they necessary in dealerships?

We’ve had many callers asking whether customers and staff have to wear face coverings in dealerships from today (July 24). 

BAGMA have been looking into the much-asked question about the wearing of face coverings in dealerships showrooms. The very late but more specific Government guidance issued on July 23 did not clearly answer this question but was clear that,

In England, from Friday, July 24, members of the public 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. Anyone caught not sticking to the rules will be liable to a £100 fine from the police.

We have taken this information from a report in the Car Dealer magazine on its website.

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.

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, as rightly pointed out by one motor trade organisation this week, 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?

Dealerships aren’t specifically mentioned by the Department of Health, but no, they don’t.

In the full guidance published late on July 23, the department said: ‘It is not compulsory [our emphasis] for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings although we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place.

‘Employees should continue to follow Covid-19 secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees. Businesses are already subject to legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigation such as Perspex screens to separate workers from customers

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.

Is there anywhere in the UK that customers don’t have to wear them?

Yes – and this doesn’t help with the confusion. While the wearing of face coverings in retail spaces became mandatory from Friday, July 24 in England, it’s been mandatory in Scotland since July 10. In Wales and Northern Ireland, face coverings are strongly advised but not mandatory, but Northern Ireland is waiting until August 20 to decide on making them mandatory.

The full report can be found here

BAGMA encourages dealers to insist that customers wear face coverings when visiting their premises in order to protect their own staff as well as their customers.

Read the full Government guidance here