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Stand-Up Training: Food Employee Illness Training

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

Food workers who go to work sick are a major cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. Use this training to teach your employees the importance of reporting symptoms and staying home from work when they are sick.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Identify symptoms of illness that must be reported to a manager
  • Recognize illnesses that must be reported to a manager

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • Keeping sick employees away from food is critical to preventing the spread of foodborne illness along the fecal-oral route.
  • Food workers should report these symptoms to their manager:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)
    • Sore throat with a fever
    • An infected wound
  • An employee is not allowed to work if they have one of the following symptoms:
    • Vomiting or diarrhea within the last 24 hours
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)
  • Food workers who have vomited or had diarrhea within the last 24 hours are likely to spread illness through food they prepare. You should ask them to stay home.
  • Jaundice could be a sign of a Hepatitis A infection. If a food worker has jaundice, report the symptom to the local regulatory authority—usually your health department. You should also ask the employee to stay home.
  • If an employee reports a sore throat with a fever, they may come to work, but they should not work with food or food-contact surfaces.
  • If a food worker has an infected wound, the wound must be appropriately bandaged and covered before the employee can handle food.
  • Food workers must also report to their manager if they have a Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella, or E. coli infection. Managers must report these diagnoses to the local regulatory authority. The food worker should stay home until the regulatory authority gives them permission to work again.
  • Food workers who can’t stop coughing or sneezing should not work with food or food-contact surfaces.
  • Highly susceptible populations have a high risk of contracting foodborne illness. These populations include young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with illnesses that have weakened their immune systems. Establishments that serve highly susceptible populations (like hospitals and day care centers) need stricter rules for handling employee illness.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

The “Why” of Reporting Illness

Discuss: Why is it important to report when you are sick? Do you remember which illnesses and symptoms you need to report before your shift begins?

Watch: When to Stay Home video

Display (optional): Hang up the Feeling Sick? poster near the time clock or door to remind your employees which symptoms to report before their shift begins.

Symptoms Scenarios

Discuss: For which symptoms would you need to stay home? For which symptoms would you be assigned to work away from food?

Watch (optional): Do I Need to Stay Home? video scenarios

Analyze: If you are watching the video scenarios, pause the video before the answers are revealed so that your employees can guess what needs to happen.

If you prefer, you can present your own food worker illness scenarios for employees to analyze.

Display (optional): Display the Food Worker Illness Flowchart poster as a reminder for when a sick employee would need to stay home. If your establishment serves a highly susceptible population, stricter policies may apply.

What Is Our Policy?

Review: Review the employee health policy at your establishment.

Discuss: Who should you contact when you are ill? How do we organize covering for a sick coworker’s shift?

Invite: Ask employees to share their questions and concerns about the policy. Emphasize the importance of reporting illness honestly and staying home to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.

Following Up

If you suspect that an employee has come to work sick, approach them with a direct but sympathetic attitude. Express concern for their well-being and ask about their symptoms. If necessary, ask the employee to go home or reassign them to duties away from exposed food and food-contact surfaces. For example, you could assign an employee with a sore throat and a fever to clean floors and windows or to operate the cash register.

Be careful not to punish employees for reporting when they are sick. It’s important that you send them home or restrict their work duties when appropriate, but do not express frustration with them. If employees feel that reporting illness will threaten their job security, they may not be honest with you about their symptoms.

Make sure your shift managers and supervisors can answer questions that other employees may have about reporting symptoms and illnesses. Encourage employees to ask questions when they need help instead of guessing at the right answer.

As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

The When to Stay Home video describes what illnesses and symptoms must be reported to a food manager to keep customers safe. View the Spanish version of this video: Cuando Quedarse en Casa.

The Do I Need to Stay Home? video scenarios present four hypothetical situations when food workers are feeling sick and aren’t sure if they should come to work. Pause the video to let your employees decide whether to tell the food workers “yes” or “no” and then resume the video to see what happens. View the Spanish version of this video: ¿Debo Quedarme en Casa?

Print out the free Feeling Sick? poster and post it in the break area to remind food workers which symptoms they should report.

The Food Worker Illness Flowchart poster is a handy resource to help managers remember when they should exclude or restrict a sick food worker. Answer the questions on the chart to arrive at the course of action recommended in the FDA Food Code. Note this resource does not cover when you should exclude or restrict employees if your establishment primarily serves a highly susceptible population.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Alyssa Erickson

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