Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Protective Clothing

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 10 September 2021.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what his current policy is on the wearing of face coverings in his (a) Department, (b) departmental agencies and (c) related bodies during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Throughout the pandemic Defra, our Executive Agencies and Arms-Length Bodies have followed, and continue to follow, the latest Government guidance in relation to managing the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, including any variations between the four nations of the UK.

In England, the BEIS 'Working Safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)' guidance provides sensible precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff. Guidance on face coverings is currently different for Wales and in Scotland so the respective guidance is followed for our workplaces located within those countries.

Our workplace risk assessments determine which mitigations are appropriate to adopt in light of the updated guidance. In line with the revised Government 'working safely' guidance it is expected and recommended that staff wear face coverings in our workplaces in specified areas and when using public transport for work-related travel. Additionally:

a) Within core Defra, face coverings may be required where a risk assessment has identified the need to wear one for a particular work activity or working environment. b) Within Defra's departmental agencies, face coverings may be required where a risk assessment has identified the need to wear one for a particular work activity or working environment. Within science laboratories, there is currently a mandatory requirement to wear a face covering within specified areas and for certain laboratory-based work activities. c) Within Defra's non-departmental public bodies and other related bodies, face coverings may be required where a risk assessment has identified the need to wear one for a particular work activity or working environment.

Organisational policies reflect that some people are not able to wear face coverings, and that face coverings may make it harder to communicate with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions, and clear sound. We expect our employees to be mindful and respectful of such circumstances.

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