When to Send Restaurant Workers Home Sick
As a restaurant owner or manager, you know your customers want delicious food—that's free from bacteria and other pathogens. While handwashing, food temperature monitoring, and other safety measures keep foodborne illness at bay, if you have a sick employee, there's only so much these measures can do. And with growing concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks, you need to be even more vigilant when it comes to responding to signs of infection. However, before you send every employee home that sneezes on a shift, learn when you should actually send your workers home when they are sick.
What Regulations Should You Follow?Determining when an employee should go home sick can sometimes be a grey area. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) have regulations regarding the health of workers who handle food. These regulations state that anyone with a contagious sickness should not be around food. This includes sore throats, fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, and colds. As we mentioned above, hairnets, gloves, and clean hands won't be enough to stop a sick worker from passing contaminants from the food they're handling onto your customers. Instead, anyone who presents with these contagious symptoms should be sent home. Another option is to transfer the person who is sick to a job that doesn't require contact with food.
Who's Regulating the Coronavirus?The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are providing coronavirus updates, including information on transmission, symptoms, treatment, and vaccines. So when it comes to sick employees, coronavirus symptoms are very similar to the common cold: respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. If a restaurant employee feels they might have contracted the coronavirus, or they have a high risk of exposure—then the CDC recommends that you send them home immediately and advise them to contact their health care provider.
Example Replacement Jobs for Sick WorkersMost restaurants don't provide paid sick leave, which makes employees reluctant to tell managers when they're feeling unwell. While implementing some form of sick leave at your restaurant could solve this issue, it could take years to fully flesh out that type of program. Luckily, there is a much easier short-term solution —give workers a replacement job while they're sick. Again, this is for those who are not at risk for the coronavirus. Some example duties include:
- Greeting and seating guests
- Managing non-food stock
- Washing dishes
- Bussing tables