COVID-19: Face coverings requirements for workers and customers

Face coverings are required for many workers and customers. Find out the rules and obligations for businesses.

Face coverings at Alert Levels 2, 3 and 4

At Alert Levels 2, 3 and 4, most workers who interact with the public must wear a face covering.

This includes workers who:

  • Are delivering goods or food to homes, but only while they are out of the vehicle.
  • Serve customers at a cafe, restaurant, bar, or any other businesses or service that serves food or drink
  • Provide a close contact service, such hairdressers, tattoo artists, masseurs, or beauty therapists
  • Work at a retail store, supermarket, dairy, petrol station or other similar stores that sell things to customers.
  • Work an indoor public facility, such as a library, museum or a gym. However, people working at a swimming pool do not need to wear a face covering.
  • Drive a taxi, ride-share vehicle, ferry, bus or train used for public transport. This excludes school buses and ferries between the North Island and South Island.
  • Are in indoor secondary school settings at Alert Level 3 (if they are open). Then, face coverings are mandatory for students and staff who are working to provide, or support provision of, education.

These rules apply at Alert Level 2, 3 and 4. However not all the businesses listed above can operate at Alert Levels 3 and 4, and some can only open for contactless delivery so should not be interacting with customers.

You can order free printed collateral for your business, including ‘Face coverings must be worn here’ and ‘Sanitise on your way in’ from the Unite against COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 posters for businesses(external link) – covid19.govt.nz

Exemptions for workers who cannot wear a face covering

Wearing a face covering may be unsuitable for some workers who have a disability or health condition. Businesses should work with their staff in good faith to see if there are other health and safety actions that could be taken to keep their staff safe.

Some customers and visitors may not feel comfortable if workers are not wearing a face covering. Consider asking your worker to apply for an exemption card they can show customers or provide other ways to communicate to customers why your worker is not able to wear a face covering. Keep this high-level and do not disclose personal information.

People can request a card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or at info@dpa.org.nz

Some workers may have personal reasons for not wearing a face covering, for example they have a beard that prevents one from being worn. There is no exemption to face covering requirements for personal reasons. In such situations, businesses should work with their staff in good faith to resolve the situation and explore alternatives.

Resolving problems(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Businesses may also have policies on face coverings to meet obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act. In these cases, workers may need to wear face coverings, even if they ordinarily wouldn’t under the public health order.

Employment New Zealand has guidance on addressing health and safety concerns.

Addressing health and safety concerns(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Customers must also wear face coverings when visiting some businesses

This includes when using public transport and taxies, visiting healthcare or aged care facilities and inside retail businesses, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, shopping malls, indoor marketplaces, takeaway food stores, and public venues, such as museums and libraries.

Customers do not need to wear face covering when using click and collect services (for example at Alert Level 3), but these are encouraged.

Only customers aged 12 years or older are required to wear a face coverings.

Wearing a face covering may be unsuitable for some people due to a disability or health condition, so they are not required to wear one. These people can get an exemption card but are not required to carry it or show it.

Be kind and respectful of privacy when approaching a customer who isn’t wearing a face covering. While it’s not always obvious why a face covering is unsuitable, it’s inappropriate to enquire about the nature of a person’s disability or condition.

Businesses and services do not need to stop people without face coverings from entering their premises or boarding their transport service, because some people will be exempt from wearing a face covering.

Businesses may wish to require face coverings at their premises. They need to take care when doing so, to ensure they do not discriminate against people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face mask.

Face coverings are just one of the tools we have for helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. When a face covering is unsuitable for one of your customers, it is always important to enable other good health, hygiene and safety practices at your place of business to help keep your workers and customers safe. This includes displaying the official QR codes for people to scan in and encourage physical distancing where possible.

Workers and customers can temporarily remove face coverings in some situations

Aside from exemptions for health and disability reasons, face coverings can also be temporarily removed in situations such as:

  • To determine someone’s identity, for example when buying alcohol or completing a financial transaction.
  • To take medication.
  • To eat or drink, when eating or drinking is permitted on-site under the Alert Level rules.
  • To talk with someone who needs to see others’ mouths to communicate, due to being deaf or hard of hearing

In such situations, businesses should still meet physical distancing requirements.

Keeping your workers safe when asking customers to wear face coverings

As well as meeting the Alert Level requirements, businesses must continue to comply with all other laws including the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

While businesses are not required to ensure people wear face coverings, they may take steps to encourage it.

When considering these steps, businesses should think about how to keep their workers healthy and safe. This should include what you might do if a person becomes angry at the worker who is encouraging people to wear a face covering.

If people refuse to wear a face covering, businesses are not required to take any further action to make them.

You should ensure your workers have adequate support, instruction and information, including knowing what to do if things escalate.

Providing information, training, instruction or supervision for workers(external link) — WorkSafe

We recommend you provide your staff with wording they can use if things escalate, so they are best able to de-escalate a situation. We recommend you are clear when workers should walk away or decide not to continue to engage with the person. Workers have the right to cease or refuse work where they believe that the work would expose them or another person to a serious health and safety risk.

Information can be found on WorkSafe’s website.

Request assistance to resolve issues relating to the cessation of work(external link) — WorkSafe

You should also consider what kind of behaviour might mean you call the Police and publicising this – for example you may want to put signs up indicating that abuse of your staff will not be tolerated.

More information about face coverings can be found on the Unite Against Covid website.

Wear a face covering(external link) — covid19.govt.nz

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