The government should never have scrapped laws requiring people to wear masks in shops, a trade union has said.
Usdaw accused the government of “flip-flopping” after Boris Johnson announced mask-wearing would become mandatory from Tuesday, following the appearance of the Omicron variant.
Shoppers have not been obliged to wear masks since “Freedom Day” on July 19.
“There is no reason why… the government could not have kept the requirement to wear a face covering in busy public places, like shops,” Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said.
“This flip-flopping on basic and sensible Covid measures and the different rules across the UK create confusion, reduce compliance and can lead to conflict.
“Retail staff working with the public every day are deeply worried about catching Covid-19.”
Lillis added that the government, rather than retail workers, should enforce mask-wearing.
Research has shown that asking shoppers to follow Covid guidelines has been a spark for violence or abuse towards staff.
It comes as the head of Iceland said the supermarket would not force people to wear face coverings.
“We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it,” Richard Walker said.
People who refuse to wear masks in stores could be hit with a £200 fine, rising up to £6400 for multiple offences.