This FAQ has been prepared for general information only for the United Kingdom and should not be considered to be legal professional advice. In all cases you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular factual situation for advice concerning your specific matter.
Version dated: 17 March 2021
Q1 – Who are Lawyers for Liberty?
Lawyers for Liberty is an independent, neutral organisation with no political alignment. Our members are a collection of lawyers and campaigners who believe in the value of individual human rights, the universality of human rights, the rule of law, and equal treatment and fairness as the foundation of a democratic and just society. We are all volunteers and are entirely self-funded.
Q2 – Can Lawyers for Liberty provide me with legal advice or offer me legal representation?
Lawyers for Liberty is not a law firm; therefore, we are not authorised to provide legal advice or represent individuals in any legal case. We can only offer general information which is not considered to be legal professional advice. In all cases you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular factual situation for advice concerning your specific matter.
Q3 – How can Lawyers for Liberty help me?
Although, Lawyers for Liberty cannot provide individuals with legal advice we can provide ways in which individuals can help themselves. The defining feature of our democracy, this cornerstone of British values, is that citizens have a participatory role in political and civic life. Citizens must have a voice!
We work to empower you so that you can use your voice for change. Our work includes drafting letters for various Coronavirus restriction issues, as they arise, from a legal and human rights perspective so that these letters can be used by individuals to send to their MPs, schools and employers.
We receive hundreds or requests for legal help and we try to find law firms who can take on many of these cases. Although we cannot guarantee that we will be able to find a law firm who will take your case or provide legal representation we will certainly try. Because of the volume of requests and cases many lawyers have reached capacity and are unable to take up all the cases actively.
Q4 – What are Human Rights?
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.
Q5 – How are human rights protected?
In Britain our human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. Anyone who is in the UK for any reason is protected by this Act, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
The Act did not create human rights for British people. The rights and freedoms it covers were set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty that has been in force since 1953. The Act makes it easier to protect these rights by applying them to our own domestic law. It also means you can take complaints about human rights breaches to a British court rather than having to go to Strasbourg in France.
Q6 – What human rights are protected?
There are 16 basic rights protected by the Human Rights Act. As you would expect, they concern issues such as life, liberty and freedom from slavery and inhuman treatment. But they also cover rights that apply to everyday life, like what we can say and do, our beliefs and the right to marry and raise a family.
Q7 – Who must comply with the Human Rights Act?
The Act applies to:
- all public authorities (such as central government departments, local authorities and NHS Trusts), and
- all other bodies whether public or private, performing public functions such as delivering publicly funded care and operating prisons.
The rights in the Act are legally enforceable. This means that if an individual thinks their rights have been breached, they can take the organisation concerned to court.
Q8 – Can human rights ever be restricted?
Some human rights – like the right not to be tortured – are absolute. These ‘absolute’ rights can never be interfered with in any circumstances.
But most human rights are not absolute. Some are described as ‘limited’ which means they can be restricted in certain circumstances as specified in the relevant Article of the European Convention on Human Rights. For example, the right to liberty can be limited if a person is convicted and sentenced to prison.
Other rights are described as ‘qualified’. Which means they can only be restricted in order to protect the rights of other people or if it’s in the public interest for specific reasons such as the prevention of crime. For example, the Government may restrict the right to freedom of expression if a person is encouraging racial hatred.
Q9 – What do I do if I believe my human rights have been breached?
If you feel your human rights have been breached and you want to do something about it, there is no single or ‘right’ way of dealing with it. It depends on the context and your particular circumstances.
You should bear in mind that there are strict time limits for taking legal action. These time limits can mean you need to take legal action quite quickly so as not to lose your rights. Time limits can be complicated, but in some cases you may have to actually ‘issue proceedings’ in court within three months or less.
We strongly recommend you consult a reputable human rights adviser or lawyer before proceeding with any legal action.
Find out more about how and where you can get initial help and advice.
Q10 – How do I take legal action to protect my human rights?
You can take a case to court under the Human Rights Act if you are claiming that a public authority, such as a local authority, the police or the NHS, has violated one or more of your human rights. You may also be able to make a claim against other bodies carrying out public functions.
If you’re considering court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser. The cost is a worry for many people, but if you get benefits or are on a low income, you might be able to get a lawyer on legal aid.
Find out where you can get help and advice on legal aid in England and Wales and Scotland
Q11 – What can I expect if I win my case?
The way that a court enforces your right (known as a ‘remedy’) depends on the type of court action you’re taking.
The most common remedies include:
- financial compensation or damages,
- a declaration that your rights have been breached,
- an order overturning the decision you have complained about – in England and Wales this is called a quashing order and in Scotland reduction, and
- an order that the public authority should do something – in England and Wales this is called a mandatory order and in Scotland specific performance.
A court will not automatically order financial compensation even if it decides your human rights have been breached. This depends on whether you’ve suffered a loss that the court thinks you should be compensated for. The value of compensation in human rights cases is usually relatively low.
Q12 – Are all human rights covered under the Human Rights Act 1998?
The Human Rights Act 1998 does not cover all of your human rights. Others are contained in the international human rights treaties which the United Kingdom has signed and ratified. Those treaty rights are binding on the UK in international law, which means that the UK has agreed to them and the Government must comply with them. However, the method for holding the Government to account for its compliance with treaty rights is different from the enforcement method for the Human Rights Act.
Q13 – What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.
For a summary guide to your rights please click here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Documents/Advice%20booklets/equlity-act-2010-overview.pdf
Q14 – When are you protected from discrimination?
Discrimination means treating you unfairly because of who you are. The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination by:
- businesses and organisations which provide goods or services like banks, shops and utility companies
- health and care providers like hospitals and care homes
- someone you rent or buy a property from like housing associations and estate agents
- schools, colleges and other education providers
- transport services like buses, trains and taxis
- public bodies like government departments and local authorities.
There are nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Discrimination which happens because of one or more of these characteristics is unlawful under the Act. [See Q15]
If you’re treated unfairly because someone thinks you belong to a group of people with protected characteristics, this is also unlawful discrimination.
The Act also protects you if people in your life, like family members or friends, have a protected characteristic and you’re treated unfairly because of that. This is called discrimination by association. For example, if you’re discriminated against because your son is gay.
The Equality Act protects you if you’re treated badly because you’ve complained about discrimination or stood up for discrimination rights, either for yourself or for someone else.
Q15 – What are my rights against discrimination?
It is against the law (Equality Act 2010) to discriminate against someone because of:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
For further information about discrimination please visit: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act/know-your-rights
Or for free advice about discrimination please visit: Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service: https://www.acas.org.uk/advice
Q16 – What is disability discrimination?
Disability discrimination is when you are treated less well or put at a disadvantage for a reason that relates to your disability in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act.
The treatment could be a one-off action, the application of a rule or policy or the existence of physical or communication barriers which make accessing something difficult or impossible.
The discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful.
Q17 – What is classed as a disability?
In the Equality Act a disability means a physical or a mental condition which has a substantial and long-term impact on your ability to do normal day to day activities.
You are covered by the Equality Act if you have a progressive condition like HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis, even if you are currently able to carry out normal day to day activities. You are protected as soon as you are diagnosed with a progressive condition.
You are also covered by the Equality Act if you had a disability in the past. For example, if you had a mental health condition in the past which lasted for over 12 months, but you have now recovered, you are still protected from discrimination because of that disability.
Q18 – What do I do if I have suffered from disability discrimination?
Q19 – What is unlawful harassment under the Equality Act?
Harassment occurs when you engage in unwanted behaviour which is related to a relevant protected characteristic [see Q15] and which has the purpose or effect of:
- violating a student’s dignity or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the student.
- The word ‘unwanted’ means ‘unwelcome’ or ‘uninvited’. It is not necessary for the student to say that they object to the behaviour for it to be unwanted.
In this context ‘related to’ has a broad meaning and includes situations where the student who is on the receiving end of the unwanted behaviour does not have the protected characteristic himself or herself, provided there is a connection between the behaviour and a protected characteristic. This would also include situations where the student is associated with someone who has a protected characteristic or is wrongly perceived as having a particular protected characteristic.
In summary the harassment must be because of or connected to one of these things: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.
The two other types of harassment which are unlawful under the Equality Act are: sexual harassment and less favourable treatment of a student because they submit to or reject sexual harassment or harassment related to sex.
If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.
Q20 – What is victimisation under the Equality Act?
Victimisation is defined in the Act as: Treating someone badly because they have done a ‘protected act’ (or because you believe that a person has done or is going to do a protected act).
A ‘protected act’ is:
i. Making a claim or complaint of discrimination (under the Equality Act).
ii. Helping someone else to make a claim by giving evidence or information.
iii. Making an allegation that you or someone else has breached the Act.
iv. Doing anything else in connection with the Act
If a student is treated less favourably because they have taken such action then this will be unlawful victimisation. There must be a link between what the student did and your treatment of them. The less favourable treatment does not need to be linked to a protected characteristic.
In summary, Victimisation is when someone treats you badly or subjects you to a detriment because you complain about unlawful discrimination or help someone who has been the victim of discrimination.
Q21 – Do I have to wear a face covering?
There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse. For a full list of places please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own
The police can take measures if members of the public do not comply with this law without a valid exemption and transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service.
If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers, including issuing fines of £200 (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days) for the first offence.
Repeat offenders receiving fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have their fines doubled at each offence.
Q22 – Are there any rules that explain when you do not need to wear a face covering?
In settings where face coverings are required in England there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
- police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering:
- if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
- if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist) or for age identification purposes, including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
- if required in order to receive treatment or services, for example when getting a facial
- in order to take medication
- if you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place of worship
- if you are the persons getting married in a relevant place
- if you are aged 11 to 18 attending a faith school and having lessons in a place of worship as part of your core curriculum
- if you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so
- if you are an elite sports person, professional dancer or referee acting in the course of your employment
- when seated to eat or drink in a hospitality premise such as a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking
Q23 – Can I get an exemption from wearing a face covering and do I require proof of exemption?
If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:
- you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
- you do not need show an exemption card
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. However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law. If you are asked to wear a face covering or why you are not wearing a face covering-simply reply you are not able to wear a face covering and are exempt. Ask to speak to a manager if the security will not let you into the premises.
It is a violation of the Equality Act 2010, if you are discriminated against as a disabled person. Please see section on disability rights above for further information.
If you wish to use an exemption card or badge, you can download exemption card templates. You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device. Please note that the government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges.
Those exempt under the guidance and regulations do not have to prove their exemption and should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to places where face coverings are required.
You can request a face covering exemption card. Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they are exempt from wearing a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, lanyard or badge. This can help people who are exempt feel more confident and safe when accessing public spaces and using public services.
You can request a face covering exemption card on 0800 121 6240 or through the exemption card website at this link: https://exempt.scot/
Those who have an age, health or impairment related reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this. You do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.
Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. A number of organisations have created cards that can be downloaded from their websites and printed, including the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales.
Carrying an exemption card is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.
IN NORTHERN IRELAND:
There is no need to get a letter from a doctor or the government to show that you do not need to wear a face covering.
If you have a condition (for example, a disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis) which means you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say, if asked, that you cannot wear a face covering because you are exempt.
Q24 – Can my child be forced to wear a mask in school?
The advice for schools returning on 8th March 2021 is that “we recommend that face coverings should be worn”. It is evident that this is a recommendation and not mandatory.
The Department of Education has set out guidance for Face coverings in education published March 2021. This is guidance, not mandatory activity, and any legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply to this advice. You are not required to provide medical evidence or letters from the GP as verification of exemption from wearing a mask.
The guidance does not create any new legal obligations.
Q25 – Is the school under a legal obligation to follow government guidance?
That responsibility, to secure efficient education for children, is not diminished by policy or requests from Government which the government has not written into law.
Accordingly, and as has always been the case, the School has always retained the ability to;
- refuse to arrange, encourage or mandate testing of children or staff for SARS-Cov-2
- refuse to arrange, encourage or mandate wearing of face-covering by children or staff
- refuse to close
- refuse to arrange, encourage or mandate online or remote learning
- to provide education at the School in a traditional way
- to take only such steps to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 as are proportionate and necessary
Q26 – What is Informed Consent?
The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights protects an individual’s bodily autonomy, the right to informed consent and the right to refuse medical interventions without penalty or restriction. It states that any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention must only to be carried out with the prior, free, and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice [Reference].
UK and International Law is clear that consent must be given freely, without pressure or undue influence, and after receiving all relevant information.
The General Medical Council (GMC) Publication entitled “Decision Making and Consent”, states that shared decision making and consent are fundamental to good medical practice. The guidance explains that – “the exchange of information between doctor and patient is essential to good decision making. Serious harm can result if patients are not listened to, or if they are not given the information they need – and time and support to understand it – so they can make informed decisions about their care”.
Further, the Fact Sheet – “Key Legislation and Case Law relating to Decision Making and Consent”, sets out the established legal principles that EVERY PERSON (even medical professionals) MUST abide by. It is UNLAWFUL to breach the requirements of Informed Consent.
Q27 – What is informed Consent by adults?
Under the NHS rules : Consent to treatment means a person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination. This must be done on the basis of an explanation by a clinician. Consent from a patient is needed regardless of the procedure, whether it’s a physical examination, organ donation or something else.
The principle of consent is an important part of medical ethics and international human rights law. For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.
The meaning of these terms are:
- voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, friends or family
- informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead
- capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected. If they change their mind at any point before the procedure, they’re entitled to withdraw their previous consent. This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.
If a person does not have the capacity to make a decision about their treatment and they have not appointed a lasting power of attorney (LPA), the healthcare professionals treating them can go ahead and give treatment if they believe it’s in the person’s best interests.
But clinicians must take reasonable steps to discuss the situation with the person’s friends or relatives before making these decisions.
Q28 – What is informed Consent from children and young people?
If they’re able to, consent is usually given by patients themselves. However, someone with parental responsibility may need to give consent for a child up to the age of 16 to have treatment.
People aged 16 or over are entitled to consent to their own treatment. This can only be overruled in exceptional circumstances. Like adults, young people (aged 16 or 17) are presumed to have sufficient capacity to decide on their own medical treatment, unless there’s significant evidence to suggest otherwise.
Children under the age of 16 can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is known as being Gillick competent.
Otherwise, someone with parental responsibility can consent for them. A person with parental responsibility must have the capacity to give consent. If a parent refuses to give consent to a particular treatment, this decision can be overruled by the courts if treatment is thought to be in the best interests of the child.
By law, healthcare professionals only need 1 person with parental responsibility to give consent for them to provide treatment. If a young person refuses treatment, which may lead to their death or a severe permanent injury, their decision can be overruled by the Court of Protection.
The parents of a young person who has refused treatment may consent for them, but it’s usually thought best to go through the courts in this situation.
Q29 – Does my child have to have a PCR or Lateral Flow test in order to attend school?
All secondary pupils and college students will be offered testing from 8 March 2021, and those who consent to testing should return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result. If you or your child (if they are aged over 16) do not consent, government guidance states they will not be stopped from going back and will return in line with their school or college’s arrangements.
Students eligible to attend in person teaching in university and other higher education settings are encouraged to take a test before they travel. Students should be tested twice upon their return to university, and then twice weekly afterwards. Universities will provide information on how to get tested upon their return. However, this is suggested and not mandatory.
Q30 – Are the testing of children and the use of face masks classed as medical interventions?
The testing of children and the use of face masks are medical interventions and, as a result, require the full informed consent of staff, parents or pupils (where age appropriate) (Informed Consent). For information on informed Consent please see FAQ question “What is informed consent”? However, if a medical intervention (ie. mask wearing or testing) is mandated or if an individual is coerced or manipulated into providing consent to that medical intervention, it would be indirect violation of the principle of Informed Consent and would be a breach of that person’s legal rights.
You should document and preserve all of your correspondence and evidence for your particular issue for future use.
Q31 – What is the risk assessment requirement for schools?
Health and Safety law requires the school to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures – this has to include the potential harms of mask-wearing, which are increasingly recorded. The law also requires the school to register the risk assessments’ details; the measures taken to reduce these risks and expected outcomes.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (“the 1999 Regulations”) provide more specific obligations. Regulations 2 and 3 require the School, being an employer of more than 5 people, to make a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety” of students and employees. Regulation 3(3) also demands that the School’s risk assessment must be reviewed and required changes made if there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates.
In reviewing its risk assessments, the School cannot ignore the reports and evidence of mental and physical harms to children being reported widely. The School staff will also have observed or received increasing reports of concerns about the mental health of its children as a result of increased restrictions. In these circumstances the School’s risk assessments are required to be reviewed immediately and regularly.
Q32 – How do I know if my child’s school has correctly performed a risk assessment?
The school has a legal responsibility to perform a risk assessment. If your school has completed a risk assessment it must be assessable by the public. You can ask for a copy of the completed risk assessment.
Each of the Government’s Regulations concerning Coronavirus Restrictions has contained the statement “No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.” While the Government may avoid providing any assessment of the costs or harms arising from implementation of the Coronavirus Regulations or Guidance on excuse it is emergency legislation, no such excuse is available to the School.
The School’s obligation to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessment is absolute. The School must act taking reasonable account of all information available to it and may not bury its head or fail to exercise due diligence in conducting its risk assessments
Q33 – What are my rights to have medical treatment?
The NHS Constitution (“the Constitution”) sets out a number of Legal Rights that patients are entitled to . The Legal Rights that you are entitled to are:
I. You have the right to receive NHS services free of charge, apart from certain limited exceptions sanctioned by Parliament;
II. You have the right to access NHS services. You will not be refused access on unreasonable grounds;
III. You have the right to receive care and treatment that is appropriate to you, meets your needs and reflects your preferences;
IV. You have the right to expect your NHS to assess the health requirements of your community and to commission and put in place the services to meet those needs as considered necessary, and in the case of public health services commissioned by local authorities, to take steps to improve the health of the local community;
V. You have the right to be treated with a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff, in a properly approved or registered organisation that meets required levels of safety and quality;
VI. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with your human rights;
VII. You have the right to be protected from abuse and neglect, and care and treatment that is degrading;
VIII. You have the right to accept or refuse treatment that is offered to you, and not to be given any physical examination or treatment unless you have given valid consent. If you do not have the capacity to do so, consent must be obtained from a person legally able to act on your behalf, or the treatment must be in your best interests;
IX. You have the right to be given information about the test and treatment options available to you, what they involve and their risks and benefits.
The aforementioned Rights are Legal Rights. By making the Vaccine a condition of your Medical Treatment they would be infringing on your Legal Rights and their actions are may be unlawful. In addition, the Constitution sets out 7 Rights and Principles and a number of values that guide the NHS.
There are established legal principles that EVERY PERSON (even medical professionals) MUST abide by. It is UNLAWFUL to breach the requirements of Informed Consent and this will leave any medical professional so doing open to legal proceedings for Negligence, Misconduct and a report to their Regulatory body. You should document and preserve all of your correspondence and evidence for your particular issue for future use.
Any refusal of Medical Treatment until a person takes a vaccine is a breach Informed Consent principles and of the Principles and Value set out in the Constitution and is thus unlawful. In all cases you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular factual situation for advice concerning your specific matter.
Q34 – What do I do if I am being refused medical treatment as a result of not consenting to the vaccine or wearing of face mask?
You should document and preserve all correspondence that you have with the medical provider.
You can write a letter to remind the medical provider of your rights around informed consent and your legal rights under the NHS Constitution as well as their duty to follow the Rights, Principles and Values as prescribed under the NHS Constitution (see Question 33: What are my rights to have medical treatment?) Ask for your medical treatment to be carried out as promptly as possible having regard to your legal rights and the Principles and Values set out in the Constitution. If they fail to respond or provide your medical treatment , in all cases you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular factual situation for advice concerning your specific matter.
Q35 – What are my employment rights if my employer has mandated masks, testing and/or masks?
This will depend on your circumstances.
You should document and preserve all correspondence that you have with the employer in all circumstances.
If you are a member of a trade union then you should seek their help to navigate through the in-house rules and procedures. If the union refuses to provide help because of its policies towards the issues then you should make a formal complaint about poor service to the union. You can also consider joining a different union that may be more forthcoming for providing help for your issues.
If you are not a member of a trade union, you can try to join one that can help with your issues. For a trade union please visit www.workersofengland.co.uk
Lawyers for Liberty will have a template letter for employees to send to their employers in certain circumstances. Please visit the Resources section on our website.
Rational Global has a number of template letters that you may wish to use. There are different letters depending on your situation. These are only suggestions and do not constitute legal advice. The link is here: https://rational.global/letter-to-employers-re-masks/
Q36 – What do I do if my letters and emails are being ignored?
You should document and preserve all of your correspondence and evidence for your particular issue for future use.
If you are a member of a professional body or trade union you should seek its help with your issues and concerns to navigate through its rules and procedures as your first course of action.
Lawyers for Liberty is not a law firm; therefore, we are not authorised to provide legal advice or represent individuals in any legal case. We can only offer general information which is not considered to be legal professional advice.
Although Lawyers for Liberty cannot provide individuals with legal advice we can provide ways in which individuals can help themselves. The defining feature of our democracy, this cornerstone of British values, is that citizens have a participatory role in political and civic life. Citizens must have a voice.
We work to empower you so that you can use your voice for change. Contact your MP with your concerns, contact any professional or regulatory body with your complaints. Please visit our web page periodically for updates to information and letters templates. If you have further questions go to the FAQ on our website which offers various general information that you may find will answer your concerns.
In all cases you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular factual situation for advice concerning your specific matter.
We receive hundreds of weekly requests for legal help; however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to find a law firm who will take your case or provide legal representation. Regrettably, the sheer volume of requests and cases has caused many lawyers to reach their capacity and thus are unable to take up all the cases actively.
If you feel you do require legal advice please let us know and we will do our best to provide a referral. Please note that some law firms will provide a free initial consultation others will not. Please be aware there will likely be legal fees involved if a law firm takes your case. This will be communicated to you by the law firm and must be agreed by you.
Q37 – Can I visit a person in a care home?
You may also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.
Visits to care homes should be enabled to take place, in line with the guidance, wherever it is safe to do so. You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents must follow the national restrictions if they are having a visit out of the care home. This means, for example, that under current rules they cannot meet other people indoors when they leave the home (except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life). There is separate guidance for those in supported living.
Q38 – Can I visit someone in hospital?
Most hospitals have stopped or significantly limited visits. The latest NHS England guidance states that hospital visiting is “suspended with immediate effect and until further notice”, but it lists several exceptions.
It says in certain circumstances one visitor – who must be an immediate family member or carer – is allowed to visit a hospital patient.
The circumstances include:
- If the patient is receiving end-of-life care
- If the visitor is the birthing partner of a woman in labour
- If the visitor is a parent or “appropriate adult” visiting a child patient
- If the visitor is supporting someone with a mental health issue such as dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed
The guidance applies to all inpatient, diagnostic and outpatient areas, according to NHS England. This includes visits to coronavirus patients but they would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Please review the official NHS publication here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/03/C0751-visiting-healthcare-inpatient-settings-principles-131020_.pdf
NHS England said those eligible to see hospital patients should contact the ward or department they are on beforehand to discuss visiting arrangements.
Details will vary depending on which hospital you’re visiting. Check on the hospital’s website for more information. Check the hospital’s website to find out what their advice is. You can search for hospital details if you’re not sure what they are.
The Scottish government told Sky News that the same rules and exceptions outlined by NHS England apply to hospital visits in Scotland. Similar guidance has been issued in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Q39 – Is there any way I can visit or have a visit with someone from another household?
You can make a support bubble with another household.
You can now meet, outside, one other person outside your support bubble but must remain 2m apart. These laws are ever changing so you must check government guidelines for the most up to date guidance. You cannot not leave your home to meet socially inside with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with. A support bubble is a support network which links 2 households. You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support bubble.
This means not everyone will be able to form a support bubble.
Once you’re in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in one ‘household’. It means you can have close contact with the other household in your bubble as if they were members of your own household. This means you do not need to maintain social distance with people in your support bubble.
Q40 – Who can make a support bubble?
Not everybody can form a support bubble. However, on 2 December 2020 the rules changed to widen eligibility for forming one.
You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if:
- you live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support
- you are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability
- your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020
- your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020
- you are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults
- you are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020
You should not form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble.
Q41 – What rights do I have if I share custody of my child with someone I do not live with?
If you share custody of a child with someone you do not live with, the child can move freely between both parents’ households. You do not need to form a support bubble to do this.
Q42 – What rights do I have if the police stop me to question me?
The police can stop and question you at any time – they can also search you depending on the situation.
A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card. The rules are different in Scotland.
Stop and question: police powers
A police officer might stop you and ask:
- what your name is
- what you’re doing in the area
- where you’re going
You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.
Stop and search: police powers
A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying:
- illegal drugs
- a weapon
- stolen property
- something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar
You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that:
- serious violence could take place
- you’re carrying a weapon or have used one
- you’re in a specific location or area
Q43 – What is a Police Caution?
The police or Crown Prosecution Service can give you a caution (warning) or a penalty notice if you commit a minor crime. The rules are different in Scotland.
Cautions – are given to anyone aged 10 or over for minor crimes – for example writing graffiti on a bus shelter.
You have to admit an offence and agree to be cautioned. You can be arrested and charged if you don’t agree.
A caution is not a criminal conviction, but it could be used as evidence of bad character if you go to court for another crime.
Q44 – What are my rights if the Police want to arrest me?
To arrest you the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you’re involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary. The police have powers to arrest you anywhere and at any time, including on the street, at home or at work. The rules are different in Scotland.
Q45 – What is the police arrest procedure?
If you’re arrested the police must:
- identify themselves as the police
- tell you that you’re being arrested
- tell you what crime they think you’ve committed
- explain why it’s necessary to arrest you
- explain to you that you’re not free to leave
If you’re under 18 the police should only arrest you at school if it’s unavoidable, and they must inform your headteacher.
The police must also contact your parents, guardian or carer as soon as possible after your arrival at the police station.
Q46 – Can the Police use reasonable force against me?
If you try to escape or become violent, the police can use ‘reasonable force’, for example holding you down so you cannot run off. You can also be handcuffed.
The police have powers to search you when you’re arrested.
Q47 – What are my rights if I am arrested?
If you’re arrested, you’ll usually be taken to a police station, held in custody in a cell and then questioned. After you’ve been taken to a police station, you may be released or charged with a crime. The law on being arrested is different in Scotland.
Q48 – What are my rights in custody?
The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:
- get free legal advice
- tell someone where you are
- have medical help if you’re feeling ill
- see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)
- see a written notice telling you about your rights, eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice
You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.
Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults
The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult. They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:
- your parent, guardian or carer
- a social worker
- another family member or friend aged 18 or over
- a volunteer aged 18 or over
Q49 – What are my rights when being questioned?
The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of – this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:
“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
The contents of the FAQs set out the law for general purposes only and reflect the opinion of the author. The replies to the FAQs should not be taken as being comprehensive or authoritative to any particular case or situation or set of facts.. Each case will depend upon it’s own facts and the law must be interpreted and applied to the facts of each individual case. We make no representation or warranty and offer no assurances about the contents of the FAQs. The FAQ do not give, nor are they intended to give, any legal advice. You must seek your own independent legal advice on any issues which you are encountering before deciding upon your course of action. We do not assume or accept any liability or responsibility for the contents of the FAQ or any action you may wish to take. Nothing in the FAQs will be deemed to create, nor do we accept, any solicitor and client relationship.