A BARBERS has been handed a formal warning after staff repeatedly refused to wear masks - but bosses hit back insisting they are exempt.

Rochford Council issued Fresh Heads barbers, on Rayleigh High Street with a formal prohibition notice to “protect the public”.

But owner, Joe Tonge, stated he and the manager are exempt from mask wearing because of medical conditions.

The warning was issued on September 17, with further checks revealing the barbers “is now complying with guidelines”.

Cheryl Roe, the deputy leader of Rochford Council, said: “People need to open their eyes and see what’s going on.

“We are where we are now because people became too complacent.

“If they have a doctors note, they should have made that clear. It should be put up in the shop window.

“I have no sympathy if they are given a fine. Rules are rules and they are there for a reason.

“It’s in their own interests as well as the public’s.

“The council is working with businesses to make sure they abide by the rules and stay open.

“Our licensing and environmental health teams have been working so hard together.

“The fines are there as a last resort, but if they need to be issued, they need to be issued.”

Mr Tonge said: “I have cystic fibrosis and diabetes so I am exempt.

“My manager has anxiety and mental health issues so he is also exempt.

“I only have one other member of staff, who has been wearing a mask and face shield.

“The council need to be working with businesses not against them.”

A spokesman from Rochford Council, added: “The council has served a prohibition notice on the premises as a last resort in order to protect the public. The notice has been placed on the public register.

“Since then compliance visits have shown that the site is complying and is now working with us to maintain a safe working environment.”