It’s been a difficult year for us all and for many of us, Christmas will be a challenge. Especially so for those that work in our local supermarkets and shops. Over recent weeks we’ve seen a number of positive stories including the joyful man who greets shoppers on entry at Morrisons in Hereford. The response to the post really was overwhelming and it showed that a difference can be made by simply smiling and being kind.

However, despite this, we have a received a number of messages and have seen comments on posts that are simply unfair and harsh on those who are working hard to keep the shelves filled this Christmas.

In particular, we’ve seen comments regarding staff at shops not challenging members of the public who decide to not wear a mask. What we must remember is that the staff at these shops are simply following government advice and that they have to be understanding because not all disabilities/exemptions are visible and sometimes questioning those that decide not to wear a mask can lead to confrontation, which is certainly not what you sign up for when taking a job in a shop.

We’ve also seen comments from members of the public stating that staff members are not wearing face coverings or shields. Again, this is a very difficult topic and we’ve been assured by a number of local businesses that there are strict protocols in place that mean that staff members that have medical reasons for not wearing a mask, have to provide sufficient evidence of the reasons why.

NOT every disability/reason for exemption is visible and therefore please remember to be kind when shopping this Christmas. The people that work in these shops are probably as worried as you and also have family that they care for.

Government guidance states that you don’t have to wear a face covering if you have ‘any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability’, and would experience ‘severe distress’ from doing so.

This includes if you’re with someone who requires lip-reading, if you suffer from severe distress when you put it on or suffer from a disability where you’re unable to put it on.

Children under 11 are also exempt, as well as those who suffer from autism.

Tesco also took to Twitter to update shoppers that they would not be refusing anyone entry.

They stated: “Our colleagues shouldn’t be challenging or refuse entry to customers visiting our stores without a facemask.”

Lidl said: “Wearing a face covering is the responsibility of the individual and should only be enforced by Police and council enforcement officers.”

“The government have stipulated that shop workers should not refuse entry to customers that are not wearing a face covering.”

The Association of Convenience Stores released a statement which said: “We have advised members not to challenge customers unwilling to wear a covering.”