Face coverings frequently asked questions

What are the rules?

From 24 July 2020, it will be a legal requirement for customers to wear a face covering in retail environments in England. This includes banks, building societies, credit unions, post offices and money service businesses (such as those that provide currency exchange or money remittance services).

A face covering must be worn by all people using a branch of a banking service listed above unless they are exempt, for example due to a disability or certain health conditions. It is recommended, but not mandatory, that staff also wear face coverings.

Under the new regulations, made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, the police can issue fines of up to £100 to people who fail to wear a face covering.

Customers wearing a face covering does not mean that firms no longer have to comply with the government’s guidance around physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene within branches. 

How will firms help customers?

Depending on a firm’s individual procedures, firms may:

  • Display signage at the entrance to the branch and other points as needed within the building to remind customers of this requirement and their policy.
  • Explain to customers that the use of face coverings in branches in England is a legal requirement in order to keep others safe and limit the transmission of Covid-19.

How will the rules work in practice?

As the government guidance sets out, we would expect people in England to follow these new legal requirements to ensure the health and wellbeing of their fellow customers and branch staff.

Branch staff and colleagues are not required to enforce customers wearing face coverings in branches but should explain the law when necessary. If customers refuse to wear a face covering, colleagues may stop customers from entering the branch or from being served, however we recommend that this is employed as a last resort and only after clearly explaining that wearing a face covering is now a legal requirement. The responsibility to wear a face covering rests with the individual.

Customers are expected to provide their own face coverings, but branches may choose to have their own stocks of face coverings available for distribution to help encourage those customers without a face covering to wear one.

What about branches outside of England?

The wearing of face coverings is not a legal requirement outside of England. Individual firms with branches across the UK and outside of England will employ an approach that best suits their staff and customers.

Do branch staff need to use face coverings?

There is no requirement for colleagues working in branches to wear face coverings, but the government recommends that  colleagues based in branches use face coverings unless they are behind plastic or perspex screens. Individual firms will agree their own internal procedures with employees based on updated government guidance.

What qualifies as a face covering?

A face covering is defined as any type of protective clothing which covers a person’s nose and mouth. This includes fabric face coverings, scarves, or PPE face masks. A face visor can also be used, but it must cover a person’s nose and mouth completely.

When applying or removing the covering, it is important that people wash or sanitise their hands first and avoid touching their face. After each use, the face covering must be washed at 60 degrees centigrade or safely disposed of.

Who needs to wear a face covering?

Customers in retail environments including banks, building societies, credit unions, post offices and money service businesses (such as those that provide currency exchange or money remittance services) will be required to wear a face covering. Exemptions  include the following:

  • Children under 11 years old
  • People who are not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • If people need to take medication or to eat or drink where reasonably necessary
  • For customers with a hearing impairment and those who lip-read, can  remove the face coverings, as necessary, to provide advice, information, or assistance
  • For ID and verification purposes customers will be asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff

How will face face coverings and ID and verification work?

Financial service providers are required to meet strict regulations and government approved guidance when opening an account for a new customer including verifying customer ID and other details and have invested heavily in sophisticated technology and controls to help them do this.

Banks work to legal requirements set by the government and under the EU’s Payments Account Directive. The presumption is that banks should open an account if a customer is able to produce required ID and proof of address unless there is a good reason not to, such as the sufficient level of proof that this account may be used for criminal activity.

Providers will always work with the individual to establish which forms of identification (ID) can be used if the more common forms of ID are not available and will ensure that customers in more vulnerable circumstances are treated fairly, this includes ensuring that they are not under any duress.  They are increasingly accepting online Universal Credit Statements or HMRC documentation as a form of account opening identification, facilitating access to those without standard ID and address documentation. Customers should always speak to their provider if they are unable to provide the forms of identification required.

For ID and verification purposes customers will be asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff.

Banks normally don’t allow non-religious face coverings for security reasons - how will banks maintain the security of branches under these new rules?

For ID and verification purposes customers will be asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff.

What about security?

If customers become aggressive or abusive and staff feel threatened they should follow appropriate company security procedures.

If a robbery incident occurs to ensure the safety of staff and customers, branch colleagues should follow company security procedures.

COVID-19

As the situation with Covid-19 in the UK evolves rapidly many consumers and businesses have questions about how the banking and finance industry will be able to support them to access the finances, support and guidance they need.

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