Has the government got you covered?

Retail NI agrees with UK trade union USDAW that "the physical and verbal abuse of shop workers has dramatically increased during the pandemic"

What are your views on mandatory face coverings in-store?

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Blog - Gillian Hamill

22 July 2020 | 0

Face coverings; everyone’s talking about them. Many agree that they should be worn in enclosed public spaces, but who will police the measure?

Mandate trade union is adamant that retail staff should not be held responsible. “Employers must put in place measures to protect staff against abusive behaviour in that regard,” says Mandate general secretary John Douglas.

Mandate has also raised concerns “that some retailers who are parented in the UK are taking advice and instructions from the management teams there” – a course described as “totally inappropriate” given the UK’s different regulatory guidelines.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Helen McEntee previously said gardaí would only be called to enforce the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops only as a “last resort”.

As RGDATA’s director general Tara Buckley aptly points out: “There will always be that 1% of the public that do not comply with rules.” She cites examples of situations where some retailers have experienced people spitting and fighting in resisting the protocols, which led to staff calling gardaí.

Buckley says customers should know there will be spot checks or fines if they are not wearing masks, to drive the message home that this is a mandatory measure.

The CSNA has also voiced concerns about the practicalities involved. Specifically, in the potential scenario of a customer who is not wearing a mask for health reasons. If they reveal this to staff, is it a data breach to pass this information on to other shoppers who may enquire why that person is not required to wear a face covering?

And while popping on a mask to hop on a bus or enter a shop is not an arduous task, some staff members who work long shifts, have said they don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask for hours in-store.

Writing in the Irish Mirror, Siobhan O’Connor makes another valid point about mandatory face coverings. “Smiling is like a social lubricant, it eases awkwardness, in dubious moments when you meet humans for the first time, smiling can eradicate anxiety,” she writes. “If we can’t greet people with a smile, how do we communicate? How do we flirt? How do we navigate the world?”

How indeed? We would love to hear your views on how you and your staff are coping with the new regulations. Please email gillian.hamill@mediateam.ie and we will include your views and suggestions in the August print edition of ShelfLife magazine.



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