'Masks should not be a trigger for abuse against staff'
A Lancashire-headquartered business group has raised concerns about the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops and supermarkets.
Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry was responding to the announcement from the Government that face coverings are to be made mandatory in shops across England from July 24.
He said it was a welcome move for health reasons, but hoped there would be no backlash against shop staff.
Mr Cherry said: “All small firms that are planning to or have already opened back up again have the health and safety of their employees as well as customers at the very forefront of their minds
“Businesses are already introducing screens, cleaning more regularly and engaging in a contact-free way where possible, and many are already making use of facemasks for staff.
“Facemasks and coverings can provide a certain level of protection to people you come into close contact with, which could help to stop the spread of the disease and to help get back to business as soon as possible.
"As mandatory face coverings are introduced, small firms know that they have a part to play in the nation’s recovery both physically and financially, and I’m sure this will welcomed by them."
He added: "We also must be careful that this does not become a trigger for abuse against shop owners and their employees, even though the majority of customers have so far proved accepting of social distancing measures.
"At a time when we want to encourage footfall to increase in our town centres and high streets, councils and government should help small firms either by delivering masks or by offering funding for the purchase of masks so that customers aren’t turned away.
“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation."
British Chambers of Commerce Co-Executive Director Claire Walker said: “Businesses need clarity on the approach to the wearing of face coverings that is consistent and supported by public health evidence. Shops and other indoor businesses need to know what the new rules are as soon as possible.
“Updated guidance, including on enforcement, should be issued swiftly so firms can maintain their Covid-secure status and continue their operations successfully.”