Explained: Face mask rules for each supermarket

1 December 2021, 09:23 | Updated: 7 June 2023, 08:56

Supermarket bosses have explained the new mask rules
Supermarket bosses have explained the new mask rules. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Supermarkets have warned that staff cannot be expected to enforce new rules requiring shoppers to wear masks, as customer abuse and violence rises.

New face covering rules came into force in England on at 4am this morning, as concerns rise in response to the spreading of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The rules require everyone, except those medically exempt, to wear face covering in shops, on public transport and in other indoor settings such as banks and hairdressers.

But retail bosses have warned that they have seen rising violence and abuse against shop workers in recent years, and that this has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and enforcement of Covid regulations in stores.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), stressed that it is the role of the authorities to enforce these new regulations, adding that customers also have a responsibility to adhere to the rules.

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"Retailers will be communicating the new rules on face coverings in England through in-store signage and other channels," she said.

"However, it is vital that we do not place hardworking retail staff in harm's way, and enforcement of face coverings must remain the duty of the authorities.

"Furthermore, we all have an individual responsibility to put on a face covering before entering a shop."

It is the latest challenge for retailers ahead of the key Christmas period. They have already seen pressure from supply chain disruption and labour shortages.

Here is what the super markets had to say about enforcing mask wearing.

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The Co-op said they will follow official guidelines, but added "it's not our place to enforce face coverings or to refuse to serve a customer who chooses not to wear one".

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A spokesperson for the supermarket told LBC: "We will be following all updated government guidelines to keep our customers and colleagues safe."

Free face coverings will also be offered to any customer who has forgotten theirs.


In an email sent to customers today, Sainsbury's said: "Throughout the week we'll be putting new signs and posters up in all of our stores and we will have greeters and security guards at the front of our supermarkets to support our colleagues as we help everyone get used to the new rules.

"We continue to thoroughly clean trollies, baskets and checkouts and, as an extra precautionary measure, we have increased the fresh air circulating to make sure our stores are well-ventilated. We will of course also make sure there is plenty of hand sanitiser available as you come in and out of our shops.

"We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe this festive season – thank you for your ongoing support."

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Richard Walker, managing director of the Iceland grocery chain, said he will not be asking staff to police the mask rules among customers.

He told the Daily Mail: "We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won't be asking our store colleagues to police it.

"Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it's crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.

"We need to continue to encourage people to shop in stores if they feel comfortable, and I'm hopeful that the latest guidelines won't discourage customers from doing so."

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M&S food said their rules aligned with the British Retail Consortium and they supported Helen Dickinson's comments.


Giles Hurley, Chief Executive Officer at Aldi UK, said: "The safety of our colleagues and customers is our number one priority. Following the latest Government announcement, wearing a face covering will be mandatory for everyone that shops at Aldi from today, except for those who have a medical exemption."

The CEO added that other measures such as hand sanitiser and screens will also stay in place.


The supermarket giant confirmed customers will be required by law to wear face masks and that prominent reminders will be in place.


A spokesperson for the supermarket said: "At Lidl GB our priority continues to be the health and safety of our customers and colleagues. Whilst enforcement is the responsibility of the authorities, we ask anyone entering our stores to wear a face covering, unless exempt.

"To help communicate the regulations we will have signage in place across all our stores and will issue updates on social media and our website.

"Additional measures also remain in place, including cleaning stations at entrances, hand sanitiser, and protective screens at checkouts.

"We thank everyone for continuing to show consideration and kindness to our store teams who work extremely hard to support their communities."

Waitrose and Asda were also contacted for comment.