Employee Health – When are they sick enough to tell them to stay home?

Employee Health – When are they sick enough to tell them to stay home? https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/sneeze.article-460x198.jpg

Healthy food workers are one of the most important ingredients in foodborne illness prevention.

To protect public health, ill food employees must either be restricted from certain food handling activities or excluded from working in food establishments.



Employee Illness

According to the food rule, ill employees have:

  • Symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection (such as diarrhea, vomiting or jaundice)
  • Diagnosed infections from one of the ‘Big 4’ (Salmonella, Shigella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or hepatitis A)
  • Infected, uncovered wounds
  • Discharges from the eyes, nose or mouth (persistent sneezing, coughing or runny nose) even when caused by non-infectious sources such as allergies.

An ill food worker must report these conditions to the Person in Charge (PIC) and be restricted from food or beverage handling.

Responsibilities of the PIC

The new food rule requires that PICs:

  • Inform employees of the need to report the above conditions to the PIC
  • Recognize the diseases that are transmitted by foods
  • Restrict ill employees from working with food and beverages
  •  Notify the regulatory authority when a food employee has jaundice or an infection that can be transmitted through food

Diseases transmitted through food

A list of diseases spread by infected food workers is published each year. Available on the Federal Register, the list includes Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Salmonella, Shigella, Staph. aureus, Strep. pyogenes, certain types of E. coli, and a few other, less common, infections.


When an ill employee is restricted, he or she may not work around unpackaged foods, food preparation areas, food distribution areas, or clean utensils. Unless excluded by the regulatory authority, a restricted employee may work where there is wrapped food and wrapped single-use articles, or with soiled utensils and soiled food equipment.

Examples of allowable activities include running the cash register, seating patrons, stocking dry goods, bussing tables and performing building maintenance. A restricted employee may return to regular food service activities when the symptoms of illness are gone.

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