Face Covering Exemptions

The Scottish Government mandate 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 and a full list can be read on the Scottish Government website. link icon

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

Disability and health conditions:

  • 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.

Autism:

  • 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.

What doesn’t count:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Not wanting to wear one

Request 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 or in the Scottish Government guidance. link icon

You do not need to prove to anyone that you are exempt, but if it would make you feel more confident in public you can request a face covering exemption card by completing our online form link icon

Temporary removal of a face covering:

Some people will struggle to hear or understand people wearing a face covering because they can’t see their mouth or facial expression, such as, people who rely on lip reading or British Sign Language speakers. Others will be unable to wear a face covering or to do so safely due to a disability or a medical condition.

You can help by being patient and by:

  • being aware that if someone is deaf they cannot hear you and may not know you are talking to them so –
    • making sure you have their attention by waving, and using gestures and pointing
    • trying to reduce any background noise (where possible)
    • speaking slowly, asking if the person can hear you, and using signs and body language to emphasise what you are saying
    • taking off your own face covering where necessary if you are communicating with someone who needs to see your face or has difficulty understanding you. (Please remember to stay at least 2 metres apart when removing your face covering and replace your face covering once you’ve finished speaking)
  • being aware that there are many good reasons why someone might not be wearing a face covering. Please be kind and don’t challenge them, Some people may be wearing a lanyard or badge to show they are exempt or carry an exemption card, but some may not
  • being aware that some people may need more time at the counter, as they may need to write down their enquiries or use other communication aids
  • being aware and considerate of others and remain 2 metres apart