When a Restaurant Worker is Sick

Posted on February 16, 2012
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Oscar Wilde once said: “I want my food dead. Not sick, not dying, dead.”

When it comes to food, most things are better (and safer, and tastier!) when they are already beyond the land of the living. The complete opposite goes for your restaurant servers, however. When the waiter is sick or–heaven forbid–dying, then the food just isn’t going to sit right, dead or not.

According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Food Protection, about 12% of food workers said they had come to work for two or more shifts while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. Busy restaurants that served more than 300 meals a day were more likely to have sick workers come to the job, but no restaurant seems immune. American food, ethnic food, English-speaking employees or not: when restaurant workers come to work sick, it could risk possible infection for diners.

As of September 2011, paid sick leave days for restaurant workers were enacted in San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. They are pending in several other cities as well.

The restaurant industry is one of hustle and bustle, and shift schedules don’t always allow for much wiggle room. If a worker cannot show up for his or her shift, they may feel like they are abandoning their coworkers. In addition, sometimes the manager doesn’t have the time to assess whether a worker should in fact go home, since they themselves are busy.

Thousands of people are sickened and even killed by foodborne illnesses each year. In order to prevent the spread of foodborne illness and keep your workers as well as your patrons safe, managers should follow these tips:

  • Enforce hand-washing for every employee after coughing, sneezing, touching their faces, touching money, or using the restroom.
  • Encourage employees to call the restaurant ahead of time if they feel ill. This gives the shift manager time to schedule someone to fill in if needed.
  • Spend some time with your employees for a pre-shift meeting. Be sure everyone looks fit for the night’s work and be ready to call in a replacement or jump on the line to help in the event that someone is ill.

photo credit: William Brawley via photopin cc

FSW Staff FSW Staff (137 Posts)

The writing team at FoodServiceWarehouse is dedicated to bringing you the freshest tips, tricks and trends for your professional or home kitchen.

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