We have all seen the stats and info-pics on the benefits of masks, but there are some individuals who, for various reasons, don’t want to wear one. Whatever people choose to do in their private life, in the workplace there are some immediate requirements that leave little room for personal choice.

The Government has set out regulations by way of the Return to Work Protocol that was published setting out the situations when an employee must wear a mask. In addition, the wearing of masks in specific scenarios became law in Ireland on the 10th August. For employers this means that where an employee may come within a two metre distance with another person that they should wear a mask to ensure legal compliance.  The HSA (Health and Safety Authority), the Gardai and even your employees and/or customers are able to take note of non-compliance and make complaints.

Employers have to enforce the Regulations or face fines and/or closure. Worse still, if they don’t enforce the wearing of masks policy, they could enable the spread of Covid-19.

We would recommend that an employer have a Face Mask policy, outlining to staff that the business requires the wearing of masks and the consequences of non-compliance. It is important that if an employee has a medical condition that prohibits them from wearing the mask that they provide the employer with a Doctor’s certificate to state that they do not need to wear one. The note does not need to say why simply that in the Doctor’s opinion it is not safe for the employee to wear a mask. The employer will need this should they have an inspection from the HSA.

If an employee refuses to wear a mask, can not produce a Doctor’s certificate and/or can not provide any reasonable excuse, you should refer to your policy. Take the employee into a private room so that they can discuss any matter that they wish. Your policy should set out that if an employee unreasonably refuses to wear the mask that they will be sent home without pay until the matter is resolved.

As of the 3rd August the HSA had issued 54 prohibition notices in 6 weeks where they noted a serious risk of personal injury to employees.

The key here is that a policy should be provided and that communication is kept open and frequent but confidential. If you would like assistance with drawing up a Mask Policy please contact ESA on 01 8774608 or [email protected]