There are a number of suggestions about when someone should stay home and when to get tested. As you navigate the everchanging world of COVID-19, be sure to stick to government guidelines that make sense along with formal reports from the science industry.

As of the day this blog was posted, COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to the flu. This includes a fever (at least 100.4 degrees F), cough, muscle aches, and shortness of breath. Current recommendations state the person should stay home until after at least 24 hours has passed once fever subsides and other symptoms have ceased. Newer reports also include lack of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea as COVID-19 related symptoms.

While the restaurant industry already has to abide by many rules and regulations according to health standards, it is not uncommon for employees to come to work ill. This is where you need a good manager to recognize potential symptoms that could cause illness for other staff or your customers. The basic symptoms that employers can send employees home for include fever, sore throat, paleness, sweating for no apparent reason, coughing, sneezing, or runny nose. Of course, it is seriously recommended that your manager speaks to the employee, recognizing that they are concerned about the employee’s health.

To help spur employees into staying home on their own accord, you must walk the talk. If you are sick, stay home. Send an email or text to your employees reemphasizing the importance of taking care of yourself and that it is about other coworkers and customer’s health. One way to strengthen your ability to send staff home is include a list of symptoms for which an employee will be sent home. While your word and a simple policy should be enough, policies with details have ‘teeth’ that people will concede to.

Two additional factors in employees working while sick include a lack of paid sick leave, and pressure to work (busy restaurant, fear of losing job, need for income, lack of others to cover their shift). Whether or not you have paid sick leave will depend on your local labor laws; however, pressure to work even if sick can be managed to some extent. It takes managers to recognize symptoms and a good policy in place, as mentioned above, plus a business culture that is supportive but holds staff accountable. Having some additional measure in place may help.

When it comes for the need for income, little can help with that issue other than work hours. Depending on the employee culture, this is where supportive efforts come in. Some businesses have in place that if you cover for someone while they are sick, when they return the coverer may opt to trade upcoming shifts to help the sick coworker have additional hours. Depending on the sick worker’s attitude and work ethic, coworkers may even donate half their tips to help them out. Again, this depends a lot more on the culture of the business than anything else.  

Whether surviving the current pandemic or during regular business, staff should stay home when ill. It takes persistent messaging and honest communication about expectations. Perhaps this pandemic is a wakeup call or will, at least, have staff think twice before coming into work with a runny nose in the future.