Updated guidance on face coverings in the workplace

The wearing of face coverings became mandatory in communal workplace areas, such as corridors, canteens and social spaces in October.

Changes to face covering regulations at work are summarised below:

From Friday 16 October 2020:

Face coverings must be worn in workplace canteens when not seated at a table, such as when queueing, entering or leaving the canteen.

From Monday 19 October 2020:

Face coverings must be worn in all indoor communal workplaces, such as corridors and social spaces.

Face Covering Exemptions

There are exemptions to the current requirements to wear face coverings in Scotland.

Below is a list of some reasons a person might be exempt, as detailed on https://exempt.scot/:

Disability and health conditions

  • you have a health condition where a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety or because you cannot apply a face covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • a person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on
  • you can temporarily remove a face covering if you need to take medication, eat or drink

Respiratory conditions

  • most people with a lung condition will be fine wearing a face covering
  • however, a few people with a lung condition will find that face coverings increase their sensation of breathlessness to the extent they can’t tolerate wearing one
  • for more information on face covering advice for those suffering with lung and respiratory conditions, visit the British Lung Foundation’s website.


  • there are various reasons why an autistic person might find face coverings difficult, such as:
    • The feeling it has on their skin
    • A sudden change to their normal routine
    • Not being able to see parts of their or other people’s faces
  • if wearing a face covering causes you or someone you are supporting severe distress or anxiety, then you do not have to wear one
  • if you are autistic and want tips on how to cope with wearing a face covering, read the National Autistic Society Scotland’s factsheet.

Mental health:

  • you might feel trapped or claustrophobic, panicked or anxious and be exempt from wearing a face covering for these reasons
  • you might feel severely distressed or anxious if wearing a face covering triggers acute symptoms of a mental health condition, like:
    • panic attacks, flashbacks or other severe anxiety symptoms
    • paranoia or hearing voices
    • dissociating, or switching alters (something that happens to people with dissociative identity disorder)
    • thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • if you are exempt, you still might feel very anxious about being judged, shamed or stigmatised in public. Or about the possibility of being asked to pay a fine. This may feel especially hard to cope with if the reason you can’t wear a face covering is also related to your mental health
  • for more information on how to manage stress and anxiety related to wearing a face covering, follow this link to an article from the mental health charity Mind.

What doesn’t count

  • Mild discomfort
  • Not wanting to wear one

There is no requirement to obtain written evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or the government that you are exempt. If you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say that you are exempt from wearing a face covering because of one of the reasons listed above or in the Scottish Government guidance.

To request a face covering exemption card, which can help people who are exempt feel more confident and safe when accessing public spaces and using public services, go to the application website at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/exempt/ .

You can request a card in physical card form, or in digital form.