Supermarket rules and policies have been constantly changing over recent weeks as the UK continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Big chains including Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Sainsbury’s as well as Marks and Spencer food halls have changed the way they serve their customers, as well as introducing new protection measures for staff. In the latest update the supermarkets have revealed their face mask policies for shoppers and workers.
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On May 11 the government issued new guidance on how to stay safe when you’re out and about as the lockdown rules were relaxed slightly.
The new document stated: “If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
“This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops.”
The advice explained the public should be taking the new step in order to protect others. “The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature) you and your household should isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.”
With supermarkets trying to enforce social distancing measures, the British Trade Consortium responded to the guidance with a statement suggesting it’s not necessarily required for shoppers to wear a face covering when they do their weekly shop.
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Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the BRC said: “Retailers do not require customers to wear face coverings in-store. Shops can only open if they enforce social distancing measures, which has been the case in thousands of stores who have stayed open.”
However, it’s not always possible to stay two metres away from other customers as you shop, and not everyone abides by the rules – which is why many supermarkets have clarified their stance on the face mask guidelines.
Here’s how the supermarkets are approaching the face mask policy in their stores.
Aldi is leaving it up to shoppers on whether they wear a face mask to their stores, but on its website it advises customers to wash their hands often and avoid contact with their eyes, nose and mouth as part of its social distancing guidelines.
The supermarket has provided face masks for all staff – but it’s not compulsory. In a statement, Aldi said: “Aldi will be providing the option of face masks to all its store-based colleagues to further support their safety as they continue to feed the nation. This move is in addition to the previously announced provision of gloves and clear screens that are being installed at more than 7,000 checkouts.”
Co-op is operating in much the same way as Aldi, with face coverings not being mandatory for shoppers.
However, it is providing its “frontline colleagues” with face coverings alongside its social distancing measures, which include markers on the floor and screens at checkouts.
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Lidl has not implemented any guidelines for shoppers regarding face masks, instead referring to the British Retail Consortium statement for those looking for advice.
However, it has gone one further for its staff in introducing face visors which are easy to wipe and disinfect after wear so that they can be worn again, as well as face masks. This is in addition to protective screens and social distancing measures.
Tesco has not asked shoppers to wear face masks in store, stating that the government guidance applies to indoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. The company said it’s been working hard to ensure everyone is able to maintain safe distances.
However, staff have access to face masks, gloves and face visors, though it is up to the individual on whether they wear them.
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Sainsbury’s has a similar policy to its rivals. The company is leaving it up to shoppers to decide, based on the advice shared by the government and the British Retail Consortium.
However, the supermarket has made face masks available to all of its staff both for when they work or when they travel into work. Staff are also permitted to wear their own face coverings if they want to.
Marks and Spencer
The M&S food halls leave it up to the customer to decide on whether they wear a face mask in the store.
The company has provided staff with face visors and additional hygiene equipment that they can choose to wear when they work in store.
As with the other supermarkets, Waitrose does not have a policy in place for shoppers on whether they should wear a mask.
However, optional protective visors have been made available to its staff.
Asda also leaves the decision up to its customers on whether they wear a face covering, with no official rules for them when visiting stores.
The supermarket said its staff have been supplied with optional face masks, while the colleagues in the pharmacy and optician teams have been required to wear masks since the beginning of the pandemic in accordance with the government guidelines.
Iceland doesn’t have a specific policy for its customers, instead referring to the statement from the British Retail Consortium for guidance.
However, staff have been provided with face masks which they can wear if they choose to – though it’s not a compulsory part of the uniform.
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