Face Coverings

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends link icon the use of face coverings to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The best scientific and medical evidence available is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering provides some additional protection, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces.

The Scottish Government recommends the continued use of face coverings on public transport, shops, most indoor public places and indoor communal areas within workplaces.  It is recommended that those who can wear a face covering do so in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in Scotland, to protect ourselves, each other and the NHS.

Face Covering Exemptions

The Scottish Government recommend the wearing of face coverings on transport, most indoor public places and communal areas in workplaces. Face coverings play a role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, however, there are reasons you may require a face covering exemption card.

People who are exempt should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to places where face coverings are required. We ask for people to be aware of the exemptions and to treat each other with kindness, especially when asking why someone is not wearing a face covering.

Below is a list of some reasons a person might be exempt:

Disability and health conditions

  • when a person has a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010) (which might include hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability) which prevents them wearing a face covering. This may include children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
  • you have a health condition where a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety or because you cannot apply a face covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • a person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on
  • you can temporarily remove a face covering if you need to take medication, eat or drink

 Respiratory conditions

  • most people with a lung condition will be fine wearing a face covering
  • however, a few people with a lung condition will find that face coverings increase their sensation of breathlessness to the extent they can’t tolerate wearing one
  • for more information on face covering advice for those suffering with lung and respiratory conditions, visit the British Lung Foundation’s website. link icon.


  • there are various reasons why an autistic person might find face coverings difficult, such as:
    • The feeling it has on their skin
    • A sudden change to their normal routine
    • Not being able to see parts of their or other people’s faces
  • if wearing a face covering causes you or someone you are supporting severe distress or anxiety, then you do not have to wear one
  • if you are autistic and want tips on how to cope with wearing a face covering, read the National Autistic Society Scotland’s factsheet link icon.

Mental health

  • you might feel trapped or claustrophobic, panicked or anxious and be exempt from wearing a face covering for these reasons
  • you might feel severely distressed or anxious if wearing a face covering triggers acute symptoms of a mental health condition, like:
    • panic attacks, flashbacks or other severe anxiety symptoms
    • paranoia or hearing voices
    • dissociating, or switching alters (something that happens to people with dissociative identity disorder)
    • thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • if you are exempt, you still might feel very anxious about being judged, shamed or stigmatised in public. Or about the possibility of being asked to pay a fine. This may feel especially hard to cope with if the reason you can’t wear a face covering is also related to your mental health
  • for more information on how to manage stress and anxiety related to wearing a face covering, follow this link to an article from the mental health charity Mind link icon.


  • when a worker or volunteer is in an indoor part of their workplace and they are separated from others, either by a partition or maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre
  • undertaking tasks in the course of their employment, where the wearing of a face covering would cause a material risk of harm

Additional exemptions

  • babies, toddlers and all other children under 12

What doesn’t count

  • not wanting to wear one
  • mild discomfort when wearing one
  • having a health condition or disability which does not prevent you from wearing a face coverings safely, such as well-managed asthma
  • if you are deaf and lip read
  • if they steam up your glasses

Download a card

There is no requirement to obtain written evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or the government that you are exempt. If you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say that you are exempt from wearing a face covering because of one of the reasons listed above.

Feedback Survey

If you meet the exemption criteria link icon and have requested or downloaded a face covering exemption card, you can take part in our feedback survey.link icon

Disability Hate Crime

If you have received abuse for not wearing a face covering, you can visit the Disability Safety Hub for information on how to recognise and report disability hate crime.


This website is hosted by Disability Equality Scotland link icon on behalf of the Scottish Government link icon.

For any enquiries, please email: exempt@gov.scot