Masks or No masks for garden centre staff?

From 24th July shoppers must wear masks when going into garden centre buildings, but not employees. 

Garden centres have taken a range of measures to protect employees and customers with screens, managed customer flows and clear signage. So what mask policy will garden centres follow for staff? 

Garden centre policy for staff

The HTA does not believe it prudent to issue advice beyond government guidelines.  It says garden centres should make their own judgement. 

This has set garden centre chat lines buzzing as owners ask what others are doing.  The Garden Centre Association says some companies have decided to enforce the wearing of masks, but believes the majority of companies will leave it as a personal decision for each staff member.

Blue Diamond has a clear position, “that our teams in both our garden centres and restaurants will not be required to wear face coverings.”

Judging by the negative comments on social media to staff not covering up while serving in some garden centre restaurants, it seems social pressure might be the biggest motivator to mask-up.

Who will police customers?

The Governments in Scotland and England have made it clear it is not the retailer’s responsibility to enforce government legislation. 

Some police forces have also indicated they have better things to do.  Devon and Cornwall police said its officers don't have time to respond to calls about the face coverings, unless they involve a public order offence.

The experience in Scotland, where face masks are already compulsory in shops, is that the disproval of other mask wearing shoppers is the main factor that persuades others to follow the rules.

Masks are not a replacement for other hygiene measures

The underlying evidence for wearing masks is weak. 

The government says face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.  These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace.

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Here's what others have said...
Phil,  27 Jul 2020:
...It is right and proper that GC Staff are protected from the high numbers of people they must meet each day at work. It is also true that (other than the clear full-face visors) wearing a face mask makes one quite hot, very quickly; and so having to wear one for several hours would be really uncomfortable. (This applies to all retail staff not just those in GC's) Looking through the customer's eyes, if they are making the effort to protect retail staff, who is making an effort to protect them? It only takes one staff member to be asymptomatic to infect many customers; so a numbers-argument doesn't make sense. The end result of some ill thought through guidelines is that only the smallest portion of the people in any store are being protected. This will not give consumers confidence to go into store, in fact quite the opposite. It's a difficult situation forced upon retailers by reactive Government interested in boosting the economy (so perhaps with the right intent), creating a law that has no logic in the sense that consumers must protect retail staff, who in turn do not have to protect consumers. From a perception viewpoint (we're all in this together) it can only be right that retail staff are asked to wear masks, but are allowed lots of short breaks to remove them for a few minutes to alleviate the heat issue, or they are issued the visors which (apparently) are less uncomfortable and cooler. On the specific issue mentioned in your article: if there is one place in which staff should wear a mask (and gloves) for clear & obvious reasons (ask the hospitality industry), it is in restaurant/cafe areas. It is difficult, and in my humble opinion, this is not a time for organisations to abstain from contribution that's a cop-out at a time when their opinion could be hugely supportive.
James Clark, HTA Director Policy & Communications,  24 Jul 2020:
...We’re pleased that our asks on staff not having to wear masks and not having to enforce customers wearing them has been accepted. We understand from the guidance that outdoor plant areas are exempt. We know our members are taking their own approaches to be within the spirit of the guidance, with a range of different ways to enforce the need for social distancing, handwashing and facemask wearing. Posters are available for members from our website

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