COVID-19 - Refusing to wear PPE


I hope someone is able to help!  I work for a care company and the recommendation is now that all carers wear a face mask for all care calls.  We have already heard someone say that they can't wear a mask as it makes them feel claustrophobic and anxious as they can't breathe properly.  They are not saying they don't want to work, just that they can't wear a mask.

I appreciate that there are options to consider, ie if there is any other job they may be able to do in the short term (although we don't know if this may now become the norm and part of uniform for a carer), if there is a different type of mask they might be able to wear, whether they could take holiday or agree unpaid leave?  We not only have to consider the health and safety element for employees, and our insurance, but also their mental health and wellbeing.  However, they will not be able to do their job without wearing the correct PPE.

What are your thoughts on the legal stance of a carer refusing to wear the correct PPE?  

Many thanks.

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  • Hi Natalie

    Apart from feeling claustrophic, is there any other reason she says she is not able to wear the mask? It is likely to be a mandatory H&S requirement so some time spent with her finding a suitable mask that she can wear should sort the problem out and if no mask can be found there may be a capability issue. Assessing capabiity is s comples issue so would need to be a thorough investigation into what other work she can do etc. Ultimately the employer is responsible for her health and it is not likely to be an acceptable excuse to allow a person to work without a mask because she doesn't like it. If the employer (indeed the PHE/gov) deems it necessary and she doesn't wear it then she will not be able to carry out the work. It sounds like you already know what you need to do so update us on how you get on.


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