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BSA comments - Face coverings in branches: FAQ

Building Societies Association

7 min read Partner content

From today it is a legal requirement for customers to wear a face covering in retail environments in England. This includes banks, building societies, credit unions, post offices and money service businesses.

Commenting, a BSA spokesperson said: “Ensuring the safety of all customers and employees is a priority for every bank, building society and credit union. From today, customers visiting branches in England will be legally required to wear a face covering, just like they will need to do in a shop or supermarket. Alongside the comprehensive hygiene procedures and social distancing measures already employed by all providers, these new requirements will help keep customers and employees safe.”

What are the rules?

From 24 July 2020, it will be a legal requirement for customers to wear a face covering in retail environments in England. This includes banks, building societies, credit unions, post offices and money service businesses (such as those that provide currency exchange or money remittance services).

A face covering must be worn by all people using a branch of a service listed above unless they are exempt, for example due to a disability or certain health conditions. It is recommended, but not mandatory, that staff also wear face coverings.

Under the new regulations, made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, the police can issue fines of up to £100 to people who fail to wear a face covering.

Customers wearing a face covering does not mean that firms no longer have to comply with the government’s guidance around physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene within branches. 

Why do customers need to wear face coverings?

Coronavirus (Covid-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

How will firms help customers?

Depending on a firm’s individual procedures, firms may:

Display signage at the entrance to the branch and other points as needed within the building to remind customers of this requirement and their policy.

Explain to customers that the use of face coverings in branches in England is a legal requirement in order to keep others safe and limit the transmission of Covid-19.

How will the rules work in practice?

As the government guidance sets out, we would expect people in England to follow these new legal requirements to ensure the health and wellbeing of their fellow customers and branch staff.

Branch staff and colleagues are not required to enforce customers wearing face coverings in branches but should explain the law when necessary. If customers refuse to wear a face covering, colleagues may stop customers from entering the branch or from being served, however we recommend that this is employed as a last resort and only after clearly explaining that wearing a face covering is now a legal requirement. The responsibility to wear a face covering rests with the individual.

Customers are expected to provide their own face coverings, but branches may choose to have their own stocks of face coverings available for distribution to help encourage those customers without a face covering to wear one.

What about branches outside of England?

The wearing of face coverings is not a legal requirement outside of England. Individual firms with branches across the UK and outside of England will employ an approach that best suits their staff and customers.

Do branch staff need to use face coverings?

There is no requirement for colleagues working in branches to wear face coverings, but the government recommends that  colleagues based in branches use face coverings unless they are behind plastic or perspex screens. Individual firms will agree their own internal procedures with employees based on updated government guidance.

What qualifies as a face covering?

In the context of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. Customers may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

When applying or removing the covering, it is important that people wash or sanitise their hands first and avoid touching their face. After each use, the face covering must be washed at 60 degrees centigrade or safely disposed of.

How will face coverings and ID and verification work?

Financial service providers are required to meet strict regulations and government approved guidance when opening an account for a new customer including verifying customer ID and other details and have invested heavily in sophisticated technology and controls to help them do this. This requirement has not been relaxed during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Banks, building societies and credit unions work to legal requirements set by the government and under the EU’s Payments Account Directive. The presumption is that you should open an account if a customer is able to produce required ID and proof of address unless there is a good reason not to, such as the sufficient level of proof that this account may be used for criminal activity. Building societies and banks also have duty to ensure that the customer is not under any duress when opening the account.

Providers will always work with the individual to establish which forms of identification (ID) can be used. The most common types are photo ID such as a current passport or driving licence. if the more common forms of ID are not available there are other options to ensure that ID can be confirmed and customers are treated fairly. Customers should always speak to their provider if they are unable to provide the forms of identification required.

For ID and verification purposes customers presenting photo ID be asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff so that the photo on the ID can be verified.

Financial services branches normally don’t allow non-religious face coverings for security reasons - how will they maintain the security of branches under these new rules?

Branch staff have always had the right to request removal of face coverings or to refuse to serve an individual who will not remove if they believe that they are a security threat. It is highly unlikely that a face covering for mouth and nose to protect against Covid-19 would pose a threat unless there were other signs of a security threat as well.

Who needs to wear a face covering?

Customers in retail environments including banks, building societies, credit unions, post offices and money service businesses (such as those that provide currency exchange or money remittance services) will be required to wear a face covering. Exemptions  include the following:

Children under 11 years old

People who are not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

If people need to take medication or to eat or drink where reasonably necessary

For customers with a hearing impairment and those who lip-read, can  remove the face coverings, as necessary, to provide advice, information, or assistance

For ID and verification purposes customers will be asked to ensure that they remove face coverings in accordance with requests from staff

What about security?

If customers become aggressive or abusive and staff feel threatened they should follow appropriate company security procedures.

If a robbery incident occurs to ensure the safety of staff and customers, branch colleagues should follow company security procedures.

For full guidance please refer to the Government's dedicated page.

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