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Cover up? Are face masks needed?

Employment, health and safety specialist Quest consider whether an employee can be compelled to wear a face mask.

The Employment Tribunal looked at this question in the case of Deimantas Kubilius – v- Kent Foods Limited. They decided it was fair to dismiss this particular employee who refused wear a mask because the employer undertook a fair procedure and their actions amounted to a reasonable response.

Employers note that this case was determined on the facts presented to this Employment Tribunal and other Employment Tribunals are likely to make alternative decisions if the facts of the case they hear are different. Therefore, it is advisable you take legal advice if you are faced with situations where an employee refuses to use PPE. Some employees are exempt from wearing a mask due to health reasons.

In the case mentioned above, the employee worked for company that shipped and delivered cuisine to customers. The company handbook was clear that employees must take reasonable actions to observe health and safety for themselves and other people. There were also specific instructions to all employees to wear face masks and PPE in the course of their employment with the company.

The employee visited a customer site and they requested him to wear a face mask and he refused to comply with the request. The customer told him to leave the site and also told the employer that they would refuse to allow him back. The employer took disciplinary action and dismissed the employee on the grounds of serious misconduct.

The employee took the matter to the Employment Tribunal but they decide on this occasion in favour of the employer. The Employment Tribunal felt the employer has followed the correct procedure of investigation and disciplinary action. They also considered the significance of maintaining good commercial relationship with their customers and that the customer ban did not allow him to perform function as an employee.

This case demonstrates the need to assess each employee issue on its own facts and the requirement to follow correct disciplinary procedures and assess health safety for employees and your customers. It demonstrates that the working environment must remain safe and there is a health safety duty upon both employer and employees to take reasonable steps to keep everyone safe.

Quest can assist you with complex legal, HR and health and safety issues. These complex matters will often coincide, and we have the expertise in our experienced advice teams to help you assess the facts of each situation and help guide you to use fair procedures to deal with the problem.

Thanks to Quest for this article. For more information on how Quest can support you or your clients call 01455 852028

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