Face mask exemption cards: Do you need an exemption card to not wear mask? How to get one?

The effectiveness and potential benefits of wearing a face mask or covering is a topic that has been debated since the pandemic began, and UK guidelines have become more strict as the months have passed. England has now followed Scotland’s example by making face coverings mandatory in shops and supermarkets from July 24. Masks and coverings have been compulsory on public transport in England since June 15. But, what about those who cannot wear a mask or covering for health reasons?

Do you need an exemption card to not wear a face mask?

In short, yes. In order not to wear a face mask in shops you will need to display an exemption card.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “There is evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.

“The British Retail Consortium has said that together with other social distancing measures, face coverings can make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the high street.

“We have therefore come to the decision that face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets.”


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The UK Government lists the following factors as valid circumstances to not wear a mask:

  • Young children under the age of 11.
  • Not being able to wear a max because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability.
  • If wearing or removing a mask will cause you severe distress.
  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading for communication.
  • To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others.
  • To eat or drink – but only if you need to.
  • To take medication.
  • If a police officer or official requests you remove your face covering.
  • Those with autism.


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Additionally, it includes situations in which it is appropriate to remove your mask:

  • If you are asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification.
  • If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sounds. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication. 

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How do you get an exemption card?

The charity Hidden Disabilities has created the face mask exemption card in response to the number of people who are unable to wear one.

However, exemption cardholders will have to qualify with the above requirements or face a fine of up to £100.

The card, which is designed to be worn on a lanyard, costs just 55p and features the charity’s sunflower logo.

The purpose of the card is to indicate if the wearer has a disability which may not be immediately obvious.

The card does not carry any official status as proof, but the charity hopes that it will give people with hidden disabilities the confidence to go into stores without a mask.

The organisation’s website states: “The Hidden Disabilities face-covering exempt card indicates that the wearer has a hidden disability and has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

“Businesses who are members of the scheme are aware of our card and provide support, help, assistance or simply a little more time to those wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

“However, please note that shops and public transport can still refuse you entry if you are not wearing a face covering.”

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