Following the Government’s announcement that face coverings are now mandatory in all licensed taxis and PHVs, the required regulations and DfT advice has now been issued. 

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place and on Public Transport) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 

These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020, so that taxis and private hire vehicles are included in the modes of public transport to which the requirement to wear a face covering applies.

DfT Advice

The DfT advice to licensing authorities stated that: “From Wednesday 23 September, the use of face coverings for passengers using taxis and PHVs will be mandated. Please note that relevant exemptions will continue to apply for those with health, disability, or other reasons in line with the current face coverings on public transport regulations. 

“The penalty for failing to wear a face covering will now be £200 for a first offence, doubling each time to a maximum fine of £6,400. This is in line with penalties for breaking the rule of six.” 

Drivers are not required to wear masks.  The Government stated that “Staff working on public transport and taxi drivers will continue to be advised to wear face coverings

Refusing fares

We have previously written on the subject of refusing fares for passengers not wearing face coverings.  Before this most recent change, the issue was unclear but now it is no longer.  The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020, that now includes taxis & PHVs, says under part 3, Regulation 5:

“Where a relevant person considers that another person is, at the time of boarding, not wearing a face covering, in contravention of the requirement in regulation 3, the relevant person may deny boarding of the relevant vehicle to that person.

(2) Where a relevant person considers that a person is not wearing a face covering, in contravention of the requirement in regulation 3, the relevant person may:

(a) direct that person to wear such a covering;

(b) direct that person to disembark from the relevant vehicle.

A relevant person includes, in relation to a public transport service provided, by any other operator any employee or agent of the operator who is authorised by the operator for the purposes of this regulation.

Update: Last week (23 September) 

The DfT issued further guidance to licensing authorities stating: 

“In line with public transport and retail settings the Regulations gives new powers to taxi and PHV drivers to deny access to a service, and to direct someone to leave a service, if they are not wearing a face covering without a legitimate reason.  If passengers fail to comply, the Police have a power to remove passengers from a service (using reasonable force if necessary), and issue a Fixed Penalty Notice. The requirement only applies when a service is being provided i.e. passengers are not required to wear a face covering when the vehicle is used for personal use. 

“We will also be working with taxi and PHV operators and drivers to ensure that all passengers are aware of the exemptions to this regulation. There are health, age, equalities and other reasons why someone may not be able to wear a face covering. It is crucial that operators and passengers are aware of these exemptions to ensure that everyone can have confidence in using public transport. DfT will publish updated guidance as soon as possible for operators and passengers on travelling safely during the outbreak. The guidance will reflect the latest information about face coverings.”

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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