The Covid-19 pandemic has made everyone in the hospitality industry rethink how to handle staffing absences and leaves due to illnesses.


The transmission and damage of this coronavirus infection required a more thorough system of health checks and allowances for when chefs and staff call in sick. 

But Covid-19 aside, how about when chefs or any member of the kitchen team call in sick? 

Coming to work despite illness is like a badge of honour for chefs. It is an unspoken code of heroism where one shows up and sees how the supervisor decides on the matter – stay to work or go home. 

Sudden absences or leaves are situations that benefit from preparation. 


Consider the following:


Have a set policy or agreement regarding sick days


Workplace health policies are in place to protect not only the sick employee but also the rest of the employees and the business. Mainly when dealing with food, food safety is paramount. Make sure that every employee well understands these policies particularly with regards to what is expected of them when dealing with illness. 

Indeed, sick employees with contagious health conditions, spread through coughing, sneezing, skin contact, should not report for work. One sick employee is not worth the additional five or so employees who can get sick because someone didn’t stay home when they needed to be. 

What is the policy for calling in sick? How soon is soon? Is there a particular number of hours before a shift that they are required to call in sick? Are employees allowed to trade in schedule with a co-worker to take over a shift? 

Bottom line, having employees notify the executive chef or supervisor ahead of time will allow them to find a replacement and ensure that the business operation will not suffer. 

Giving ample time when calling in sick is not just a business thing. It’s common courtesy. 


Have a staffing backup plan


No matter how much care and planning is given to a staffing schedule, it will never be ironclad. That’s what happens when there is a human element involved. This is why backups and contingency plans are set up to avoid unpleasant surprises such as urgent staff leaves. Some businesses have policies that allow for schedule trade-offs where employees can look for a suitable and available co-worker to take in their shift. Later on, the executive chef or supervisor is notified of the change for feedback or acknowledgement. 

When a staff structure is small, an intelligent solution is to have employees cross-trained in several stations so that it is easier to have someone available to step up in place of an absent employee.

Another intelligent solution is to work with professional and reputable chef agencies. Chef staffing agencies, such as Anytime Chefs, can provide a chef or staff needed to fill a vacancy. 

Anytime Chef has provided short-term chef hire services and permanent chef hires to restaurants and venues all over Perth and Western Australia. We aim to help hospitality business owners solve staffing issues so that they can focus on giving quality service to their valued guests. The less time they worry about whether someone can come in to work their shift, the more they can spend on other essential things. 


Provide allowances for time out


Mental health in the restaurant industry has been called out for its toxicity. It is a culture that harms itself in the long run. A person’s mental state can directly affect their physiological functions which can badly affect both the individual and the business. People can get physically ill as a result of mental stress. And if you are finding your staff to be having recurring absences, consider looking at how they are mentally coping with the pressures at work. 

Remember the badge of honour mentioned earlier? Most chefs or kitchen staff have second thoughts asking for day-offs to physically be somewhere else, let alone ask for a day off to decompress. No one wants to lose a shift or be thought of as lazy! 

Thankfully, more and more businesses are starting to understand how crucial their employees’ mental health is and actively address burnout. Some companies give employees a much-needed break or to have a day to themselves regardless of reason as long as there is proper and timely notice. 

Some restaurant owners implement well-being practices is by closing the restaurant for one week out of the year to allow everyone on staff to rest and recharge.


RELATED READ: Why Chefs Should Speak Up About Their Mental Health


Assess employee’s performance and motivation


If your employee calls in sick every week and isn’t ill, the job is not a good match. He’s calling in sick because he is unhappy; he doesn’t want to work for you (or maybe for anybody). Either way, you should assess their performance and motivation to see how you can support them. This assessment will also give you clarity in creating decisions on whether you need to hire someone else in their place.


In Summary:

A sick person who comes to work increases the length of time necessary for him to recover. Remember, unhealthy employees, are not productive employees.

If you are struggling to quickly find a chef or other hospitality staff, contact Anytime Chefs for rapid chef staffing support. 


That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,


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