When to wear a face covering or PPE

This information will define when face coverings should be worn on University premises, when it is acceptable not to wear them and when other measures are more appropriate.

The most recent Government guidance recommends (with the exception of nurseries) wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible and where you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. To reflect this advice, the University has mandated that face coverings be worn by staff, students and visitors at all times (with exceptions detailed elsewhere in this document) while inside university buildings.

NB: Face coverings are simple fabric coverings that cover your mouth and nose and should not be confused with Personal Protective equipment (PPE) such as Filtering Face Piece (FFP rated) masks, surgical masks or respirators. Face coverings can be purchased from a variety of outlets or can be made from home using templates provided by the Government. Social distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must be in addition, rather than instead of these other precautions.

General principles

1. Face coverings should be worn by all staff, students or visitors when inside University buildings with the following exceptions:

  • When you are alone in a room.
  • When you are eating or drinking.
  • If you have a medical condition (mental or physical) that makes wearing a face covering difficult. One of the four stated exemptions from wearing a face covering relates to “colleagues or students” who have a medical condition (mental or physical) preventing them from doing so.
  • If you are engaged in work where wearing a face covering would introduce a more significant hazard.

2. Where a risk assessment identifies alternative arrangements (including PPE), they should be used instead of face coverings.

3. Standard face coverings, PPE and other control measures will be provided by the University. PPE must be worn as specified but self-sourced alternative face coverings can be worn instead of those provided.

How to wear a face covering

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it.
  • Ensure the face covering covers your mouth and nose.
  • When wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands.
  • Continue to wash your hands regularly.
  • Change and wash your face covering daily.
  • If the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in general waste. Do not litter or drop used coverings in outside bins
  • If you take a covering off for use later, store it safely in a sealable plastic bag, such as those used for toiletries in airports or a sealable sandwich bag clearly labelled for a mask. Do not leave on shared surfaces.

Other equipment

PPE such as surgical or FFP masks should be used instead of face coverings only where specified through a risk assessment.

Nitrile or other protective gloves are not required for general use and are not recommended as a day-to-day precaution against COVID-19. Hand washing or sanitising remains the best personal hygiene measure to protect yourself.

Perspex screens provide additional protection and are considered in areas such as reception desks and where additional separation is needed between adjacent workstations as part of the COVID Secure Assessment carried out by Health and Safety Services in conjunction with building users and, where they have been defined as required, installed. Depending on the results of the COVID Secure Assessment, the use of screens could negate the need for face coverings.

Visors are often used in conjunction with face coverings, but can be used as a standalone measure where indicated by a risk assessment.

Face coverings may present additional challenges for people who are hearing impaired, and those with a communication impairment or for people who are neurodiverse. These include preventing lip reading or seeing facial expressions. Where people need to communicate and are wearing a face covering, they should consider moving to a large, well ventilated area to stand or sit at least 2 metres apart. In addition, in such circumstances staff and students are encouraged to wear a visor which the University can provide, or consider making or using face coverings with clear panels. The university does not have a supply of these coverings but instructions on making them are available.

Face-to-face teaching

Students should wear face coverings during face-to-face teaching. Students whose personal circumstances prevent them from wearing a face covering and would be happy to let the University know, should complete this online form. After completing the online form the student may be contacted by a member of Student Support Services staff to discuss support.

Lecturers should wear a face covering or a visor unless their personal circumstances prevent them from doing so, in which case, an individual risk assessment will be required.

Available equipment

The information below illustrates the type of equipment available and describes when it might be used: 

University of Leicester branded face coveringFace covering – Informal design, homemade or commercial

Intended primarily to protect others by reducing the potential of transmission by the wearer.

Required by UK Government on public transport, hospitals and retail premises in addition to social distancing.

Recommended by UK government in all public indoor areas in addition to social distancing, particularly when social distancing is hard to manage.

Required by the University in most indoor areas except single occupancy offices and areas where risk assessments have identified alternative measures.

Surgical maskSurgical mask – Also known as medical facemasks CE marked EN14683

Designed to protect others by reducing transmission risk, fluid resistant types will also protect the wearer. No requirement for face fit testing but increased seal provides more protection. PPE, so would be provided by the University.

Required in NHS facilities (including those in which the University operates in) for all staff, health workers and patients except where staff are engaged in aerosol generating procedures.

Filtering face pieceRespirators or Filtering Face Piece (FFP)

Designed to protect the wearer and provides the best level of protection. Branded and CE marked to EN149 and specified as FFP1, 2 (N95) or 3. Requires training and a face fit test prior to use. PPE, so would be provided by the University.

Required in health care settings where aerosol transmission is possible.

Recommended where indicated by a risk assessment.


Often used in addition to face coverings but can be used instead where situations require it, subject to risk assessment.

Enables people to see the wearer’s face which may be helpful for communication.

Perspex screenPerspex screen

Used to provide additional protection between workstations or in reception areas.

If you cannot wear a face covering, we are making available a visual indicator in the form of a badge (PDF. 22kb), which could be printed off personally or supplies will be available in key locations. The badge could be worn on your lanyard, kept as a card in your wallet or saved as a PDF on your phone. Alternately, you may wish to wear a lanyard or card from the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower. Whilst it is not mandatory to display a visual indicator, if you choose not to do so, (and you are not wearing a face covering), you may be questioned by a colleague or fellow student.

Please do not be offended if you are questioned, we all have a collective responsibility to control the transmission risk of COVID-19. Face coverings are an important part of our control measures and we must all play our part in ensuring our campus remains safe.

The University will not question the requirement for an exemption badge, you will not need medical evidence to request one. Please ensure you only request a badge if you have a genuine need.

If you are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical exemption, you must ensure you observe the Government’s stipulated social distancing guidelines (Currently 2m at all times when in University buildings).

All staff or students should feel confident to question their peers why they are not wearing a face covering but they must do this politely and respectfully as the reason for not doing so may not be immediately apparent, could be very personal or connected to the person’s mental health.

Guidance for managers outlining advice on how to deal with colleagues refusing to wear face coverings or failing to maintain social distancing, and therefore, potentially placing other colleagues at risk are detailed in our guidance for managers on face coverings and social distancing on campus