Face coverings

Updated 3 March 2021

Government guidelines around the use of face coverings change frequently and we will update this page in line with them.

What is the current University position on face coverings?

Face coverings must be worn all the time (including when seated) in the following areas:

  • Teaching space (providing the use of face covering does not impact teaching and learning)
  • libraries and study spaces
  • the Refectory and all other University catering outlets
  • main internal communal areas on campus (e.g. corridors, social spaces and when moving around in open plan offices etc.)
  • all main, public indoor areas in University residences (e.g. reception, corridors, stairs, lifts and toilets) but not inside the flats themselves. If there is an exception for a social space, signage will tell you so
  • all places of worship on campus
  • NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings.

2m social distancing and hand washing are still vitally important in these areas and signage is in place.

Where risk assessments identify the need for additional measures such as face masks or extra PPE, this needs to be followed. This will be clearly communicated by line managers/academic supervisors and signage.

When outdoors on campus, you do not need to use face coverings. Should you feel that social distancing may be difficult and you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, you can of course choose to wear one.

What is a face covering and what kind should I wear?

A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth and is either reusable or single-use. It should:

  • cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • fit comfortably but securely against the side of your face
  • be secured to your head with ties or ear loops
  • be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • ideally include at least 2 layers of fabric.

Why and how to wear a face covering

Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes are so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others. Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others from coronavirus (COVID-19) rather than the wearer, they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.

To find out more about how to put on and take off a face covering, watch Professor Cath Noakes explain why and how we need to wear face coverings in public places. Professor Noakes is an expert in the spread of airborne infections inside buildings and member of the national Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) that advises Government.

Government advice also recommends that when wearing a face covering you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on
  • avoid wearing on your neck or forehead
  • avoid touching the front of the face covering or the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession.

When removing a face covering:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
  • only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • do not give it to someone else to use
  • if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • if reusable, don’t put a used face covering on any surface; instead when you are not using it store it in a plastic bag, and wash it at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed.


You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. A list of people who are exempt can be found in the Government information.

If you are exempt but wish to wear a face shield (visor) as an alternative, we would support you to do so. Free face shields are available to staff and students, alongside face coverings.

If you are exempt and don’t wear a face covering or face shield, we now ask you to carry an exemption card, badge or even a homemade sign on campus to support this. Exemption cards are available from FD Helpdesk and from Libraries, Student Information Points and the LUU reception when open.

Face covering provision

A free face covering or face shield is available from the following campus locations by showing a staff or student card and sharing some basic details (when they’re open):

  • LUU Information Desk
  • Student information points:
    • Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Building – Student Counter
    • Worsley Level 7.09
  • FD Estates Helpdesk (FD building)
  • Security office
  • Residences: All University residence front desks will hold a stock
  • The Edge front reception desk

If a staff group is restarting work on campus, and requires a larger quantity, the head of school/service or line manager should contact: safety@leeds.ac.uk


To help keep everyone safe, we are now monitoring the use of face coverings where required on campus.

FAQs for staff

Can I wear a face shield (visor) for learning/teaching activities?

You must wear a face covering in teaching space (unless exempt). If you feel a face covering will impact on learning/ teaching, you may use a face shield while delivering this. Of course you must wear the face covering before and after your learning/ teaching delivery. Face coverings and shields are available from the campus locations providing face coverings (these are listed in the previous section about face covering provision).

Can I wear a face shield (visor) for other roles?

Face visors and shields are not good alternatives to face coverings – they are designed as additional protection to prevent droplet transmission and not as a single barrier to aerosols. However, people serving in a café or working on a reception desk where communication is key, can be given a face shield if required.

Can I choose to wear both a face shield (visor) and a face covering on campus?

Yes, if you would like to wear both a face shield and a face covering, the University will support you to do so.

What if I need to remove my face covering to communicate with people?

There are a number of circumstances where you can remove your face covering, for example if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. Remember to ensure a 2m social distance.

What do I do if I think someone should be wearing a face covering?

There is helpful guidance on how to deal with this kind of situation on the digital practice pages.  However please remember that not everyone is required to wear a face covering. It is important to be kind and mindful of this and know that the reasons for exemption may not always be visible.

What is the difference between a face mask and a face covering at work?

Face coverings are used to protect people in conjunction with other measures (for instance social distancing), in most work settings. Surgical face masks are used in medical settings to limit the spread of infection, or where a risk assessment has determined that they are required. To learn more, see the Health and Safety Executive information.

Please remember…

Wearing a face covering is just one of the range of measures, including social distancing and frequent hand washing, that we should all take to help keep everyone safe. If you have any concerns about face coverings, please speak to your line manager/academic tutor.