Letter written on behalf of someone mask-exempt turned away from a shop

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Written by: Miri
April 14, 2021
 | One Comment

Dear Sir / Madam,

I attempted to visit your store on [date] to make some routine purchases, something I have successfully done on many previous occasions, and was not anticipating I would have any difficulties on this occasion.

I noticed that your shop front was festooned with slogans and images regarding masks, stating that you would not provide service to anybody without a mask, and that there would be "no exceptions".

I was extremely surprised to see such images, as this declaration is in direct contravention of the law - both the Disabilities Discrimination Act, and the Equality Act 2010. There are a wide range of legal exemptions to mask-wearing, and many of these involve hidden disabilities. It is illegal to refuse service to somebody on the basis of a disability, including a hidden one, so I was sure I must have somehow misinterpreted the images in your window, and the intention, albeit clumsily executed, was to express that you would not serve anyone without a mask, unless they were legally exempt, as I am.

Otherwise, you would be flagrantly advertising discriminatory and illegal policies, which I am sure, of course, you would not do.  There are a very wide range of legal exemptions to wearing a mask, as laid out on the government's website, here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

Therefore, you can imagine my deep distress and shock when I was accosted by a member of staff at the door, and informed that I could not enter the store without a mask.

I politely explained to the staff member that I am exempt, but the staff member simply repeated that I was not permitted to enter the store and could only purchase items online.

Not wishing to further extend this confrontational and distressing experience, I left the premises, feeling deeply shaken and upset.

I do not wish to purchase items online, I wish to support my local community by using physical retail premises and paying cash, since I am very well aware that the high street is suffering profoundly due to the boom in online shopping, and that many shops are at risk of closing down, a situation which has been exacerbated exponentially by the coronavirus crisis and "lockdowns".

If these shops go, so too will many jobs, which will be followed by the concomitant rise in poverty, mental illness, addiction, and suicide that significant rises in unemployment inevitably create.

I take my responsibility to my local community very seriously, in terms of supporting others to remain independent and self-sufficient through employment, rather than supporting a model that will condemn many to ruin. 

I am exempt from wearing a mask for reasons which the law rightly protects me from disclosing to strangers in shops. If you study the law regarding masks, which I certainly hope the management team at your store has done, you will find there are a wide range of exemptions within the law from wearing masks.

These include hidden disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many survivors of extreme abuse experienced having their faces covered as part of their abuse, and as such, are unable to wear face coverings now, as to do so could trigger flashbacks and extremities of panic that may require emergency medical attention. So, as you can see, there is a very good reason why the law protects sufferers of hidden disabilities from disclosing details of those disabilities to strangers in shops. 

The law clearly states that those who are mask-exempt are able to self-certify, and no "proof", such as a doctor's letter, is required. Furthermore, doctors have formally and publicly declared they will not be providing such letters, please see here:

 https://www.burtondocs.co.uk/2020/07/21/face-mask-exemption-letters-no-gp-medical-letter-needed/.

All the mask-exempt are required to state, to anyone who challenges them regarding not wearing a mask, is that they are exempt, and if they are then either pressed for further details, or discriminated against as a result of their exemption, the law has been broken. Breaking this law carries with it a potential fine of up to £5,000, and punitive damages of between £900 and £9,000, as per sections 112 (Aiding Contraventions) and section 119 (Remedies) of the Equality Act 2010.

Obviously, I would be deeply concerned if your business was landed with such a fine, as I am sure this would severely damage or even destroy altogether your ability to remain solvent in these extremely challenging times, so I write to you to make you aware of the law to ensure you adjust your policies accordingly and as a matter of urgency. 

Please reply to this letter within 14 days of today's date assuring me your business will no longer operate illegal and discriminatory policies, and that I and other members of the community who are mask-exempt, will be welcomed to shop with you, prejudice-free, in future.

Yours sincerely,

[Name]

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One comment on “Letter written on behalf of someone mask-exempt turned away from a shop”

  1. This is very helpful and well written. Thank you for taking the time to produce these letters. 👍

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