You do not need a doctor’s letter to prove exemption from face coverings

22 June 2021
What was claimed

You are not exempt from wearing a face covering unless you have a supporting letter from a doctor, and wearing the invisible disability exemption badge is illegal.

Our verdict

You do not need a doctor’s letter to prove exemption and you may choose, although are generally not required, to carry an exemption card. Wearing an exemption badge or carrying a card is not illegal.

A post on social media says that the invisible disabilities sunflower exemption badge is now illegal to wear. 

“THESE ARE NOW ILLEGAL TO WEAR….YOU ARE NOT EXCEMPT [sic] FROM NOT WEARING A FACE COVERING IN SHOPS OR PUBLIC UNLESS YOU HAVE A DOCTORS LETTER TO BACK UR HEALTH REASONS ....YOU WILL GET FINED OR REFUSED FROM SHOPS...PEOPLE WHO WEAR THESE ...STILL HAVE TO WEAR A MASK”


It is not illegal to wear such a badge and you do not need a doctor’s letter to prove whether you are exempt as the post seems to be suggesting.

There are some settings where face masks or coverings must now be worn by law, unless you are exempt, have a “reasonable excuse”, or have to remove it for a variety of reasons, including, for example if asked to do so in a bank for verification of your identity.

Exemptions include, but are not limited to: 

  • children under 11, 
  • those who can’t put on, remove or wear one because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, 
  • and those for whom putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause them severe distress.

The government advice in England is that individuals who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering “do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this” and “do not need [to] show an exemption card”. 

It says that this means that “you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering”. The government website also explicitly says that “carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.”

There is recognition, however, that some people may prefer, or feel more comfortable having something to show that they do not have to wear a face covering. The government suggests that this could be the template exemption card on its website, a badge or a home-made sign.

In England, face coverings must be worn in settings such as public transport, shops, hospitality venues (except when seated at a table to eat and drink), and entertainment venues like museums, amongst many others. 

Premises have been told to “take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law”, and the police and Transport for London officers can take measures such as denying access, directing individuals to wear face coverings, or issuing fines.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because exemption badges are not illegal, and you do not need a doctor’s letter to prove face covering exemption.

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