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MASKS: EXEMPTION AND DISCRIMINATION


This would be unthinkable, of course. The proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim clause would undoubtedly kick in. Surely the same applies to taxi and private hire drivers who have no choice but to risk their lives by going to work, especially considering the age of many drivers, that a significant proportion of them come from BAME backgrounds; they may live with their extended families spanning generations under one roof. Our industry also has one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates.


This brings me to the final legal argument: the Right to Life as afforded by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights: https://bit.ly/3cYDggR


Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to life. This means that nobody, including the Government, can try to end your life. It also means the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk.


Public authorities should also consider your right to life when making decisions that might put you in danger or that affect your life expectancy. We know that Covid-19 limits life expectancy by causing permanent damage to health as well as being a direct cause of death. It is for you to decide if the right to claim exemption from wearing a face covering takes recedence over the right to life.


PROOF OF EXEMPTIONS NEEDED


It would help if exemptions required proof and for specific medical and/or mental health conditions as is the case in


many other countries and just as a disabled person needs proof in the form of a Blue Badge in order to park in a disabled space. The government did not pursue this option presumably because of the Equality Act again:


Section 26: Harassment


(1) A person (A) harasses another (B) if— (a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and (b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of— (i) violating B's dignity, or (ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.


However, (4) (c) may ride to the rescue:


(4) In deciding whether conduct has the effect referred to in subsection (1)(b), each of the following must be taken into account—


(a) the perception of B; (b) the other circumstances of the case; (c) whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.


It would seem that the Equality Act is actually a very well-drafted piece of legislation after all – if the powers-that- be bothered to read it, that is.


In the absence of any test case on these matters to date, be careful and stay safe. It is worth asking your local authority what their stance is on these matters. Some will value your life more than others.


SO WHAT IS THE ANSWER? CAN YOU REFUSE A FARE? WOULD YOU BE SUBJECT TO ACTION AGAINST YOU IF YOU DID REFUSE?


To narrow it down and put it simply, a driver can refuse any fare where he or she “has reasonable cause”.


So YES, you can refuse a fare, and in much the same way as a person who claims exemption does not have to explain why they are exempt, a driver does not have to say why they are refusing transport to the passenger.


If the passenger complains to the council, then you would be expected to have “reasonable cause”.


Is there a risk of prosecution under the Equality Act?


Well firstly, this would only apply as explained above, if you had actually breached the Equality Act; but the “right to life,” which is an inherent lawful right may NOT be ignored


12


or overruled by any authority, not even government, and as such, overrules the Equality Act.


So in short, the risk of any successful prosecution or action taken for a refusal would be very minimal, dependant only on the manner in which you refused, or what reason, if any, you gave at the time of refusal.


To be clear, we cannot promise that no one will try to report you for refusing to take a passenger who claims exemption from wearing a face mask, but we have given you the information in order for you to make an informed decision.


Each driver should perform their own risk assessment and react accordingly. However, it is very important that you respond calmly and remain polite.


FEBRUARY 2021


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