Retail trade union Usdaw is urging shoppers to follow the law and help to protect shopworkers and other customers by wearing a face covering, while following existing social distancing and hygiene procedures.
The union said shopworkers are “not responsible” for enforcing the law, and abuse should not be part of the job.
The news comes as Usdaw welcomed the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops, but warns that it can only be effective alongside existing social distancing and hygiene procedures.
Last week wearing a face covering in retail shops and supermarkets was made compulsory by the UK government.
Usdaw general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said: “We encourage everyone to support shopworkers by remembering to wear a face covering, unless you are covered by an exemption. We’ve been talking to employers about this and making sure that they have clear policies and procedures in place.
“We expect employers to put up clear signage to remind customers about the rules. The government has said that shopworkers are not expected to enforce this law, but we are concerned that it may be a flashpoint for abuse of staff.”
He added: “Although the government has said that shopworkers are not legally required to wear a face covering, employers might encourage or require staff to wear them in some circumstances. Employers must be aware that staff will need regular breaks when they can take their face covering off and have the opportunity to replace it.
“We also want to make it clear that face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing measures that are already in place, such as screens, distance markers, hygiene measures and limits on numbers of customers in stores. We expect employers to keep these in place and support our members in making sure that customers follow the rules.”
Lillis concluded: “Our plea to customers is to wear a face covering and keep following social distancing measures. We also ask you to remember that shopworkers are doing their best in a difficult situation, and to always treat them with the respect they deserve.”