The most recent Government guidance on the issue of public transport ( including taxis and PHV) was updated on 24 September to take account of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place and on Public Transport) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.
The guidance under the heading of “Passenger compliance with face covering regulations on public transport services and at transport hubs” says “ The regulations give operators (including taxi and private hire vehicle drivers) powers to deny access to their services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or to direct them to wear one or leave a service if they are not wearing a face covering.
If passengers fail to comply with operators’ encouragement and instructions, without a legitimate exemption, the police have powers to issue a fixed penalty notice.
Where a passenger seeks to rely on an exemption from the requirement to wear a face covering, those seeking to enforce the requirement should take a proportionate approach to the evidence they require in support of that reliance. By way of example, it is not envisaged that people relying on an age, health or disability related exemption will routinely be required to produce any written evidence in support of their reliance. People who are exempt may choose to use operator or government issued cards or badges to avoid challenge. It is important to be aware that there is no requirement to do this, and some people may choose not to.
The guidance also sets out that:
“If a passenger is not wearing a face covering, operators and their staff have powers to:
- prevent access to a public transport vehicle, including to a taxi or private hire vehicle
- direct a passenger to wear a face covering in a public transport vehicle, including in a taxi or private hire vehicle
- leave a public transport vehicle, including a taxi or private hire vehicle
Operators have discretion over how they use these powers and it is recommended that they have a policy which they disseminate to their staff and drivers.
Police led: 6 enforcement
There are exemptions for certain categories who do not need to wear face masks on public transport, but asking this questions does not appear to be a breach of an Equalities Act duty and refusing to allow a passenger does also not appear to be a breach of Equalities Act and the guidance suggests very clearly that a driver can refuse to take a passenger on any reasonable grounds, which includes for not wearing a face mask.