Face Covering Exemptions

The Scottish Government strongly recommends 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.

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 download a face covering exemption card. link icon

Temporary removal of a face covering

You do not need to wear a face covering when seated in a hospitality setting.

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 1 metre 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 1 metre apart

Staying Safe and Protecting Others

All COVID-19 rules and restrictions have been lifted in Scotland, but the virus has not gone away.

You can take action to help protect yourself and keep others safer. Together these actions help reduce the risk and make it safer for everyone.

Lessen the risk by choosing to:

  • get the vaccine link icon or the vaccine booster link icon,  and, where they are prescribed, the new anti-viral treatments – this is the best way to protect yourself
  • meet outside where possible
  • when meeting indoors, open windows to let fresh air in
  • if you can, try and keep some distance from those outside your own household – take a step back
  • where appropriate, wear a face covering in indoor public spaces and on public transport
  • wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing
  • maintain good surface hygiene by cleaning regularly
  • explore hybrid and flexible working practices where appropriate – organisations and workplaces should follow the safer workplaces and public settings guidance link icon

If you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms or have a high temperature, you should follow the ‘Stay at Home’ guidance available on NHS Inform. link icon


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

For any enquiries, please email: [email protected] link icon