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California Passes Legislation To Protect Food Workers' Rights

California Passes Legislation To Protect Food Workers' Rights

In a move for California’s food industry, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 476 into law in October. This legislation, set to take effect on January 1st, 2024, carries significant implications for the state’s food facility employers and their workers. Under SB 476, food facility employers are now mandated to pay for their employees’ food handler cards and the time spent obtaining them, marking a significant leap forward in protecting the rights and well-being of food service workers.

What Is A Food Handler Card, And Why Does It Matter?

Before we dive into the details of SB 476, let’s get a better understanding of what a food handler card is and why it’s crucial. A food handler card is a certification required by the state Health and Safety Code for anyone involved in the preparation, storage, or service of food in a food facility. It’s designed to ensure that those working with food possess the necessary knowledge and skills to maintain the safety and hygiene standards crucial in the food industry.

Before SB 476, obtaining a food handler card was often an expense borne by the employee, including the costs associated with taking the necessary training courses and examinations. However, with the new legislation, a fundamental shift in responsibility has occurred.

The Power Of SB 476

Under the provisions of SB 476, employers must now cover all costs associated with their employees obtaining a food handler card. This not only includes the cost of the certification but also compensates employees for their time spent attending training courses and taking examinations. This law mandates that employees are relieved of all other work duties while undergoing this training.

One of the most notable aspects of SB 476 is the prohibition against conditioning employment on the applicant or employee having an existing food handler card. This means that obtaining a card is no longer a prerequisite for employment, which can open doors for many job seekers and reduce barriers to entry in the food industry. With this change, the focus is on providing employees with the tools and training they need to succeed in their roles.

A Win-Win For Employers And Employees

SB 476 represents a win-win situation for both food facility employers and their employees. Employers benefit from a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce, which can lead to improved food safety and customer satisfaction. On the other hand, employees can take advantage of enhanced opportunities for employment and career growth within the food industry, all while being fairly compensated for their time and expenses in obtaining their food handler cards.

How A PEO Can Help Business Owners

Navigating these changes and ensuring compliance can be a complex process for business owners, particularly in the food industry. The following is how a PEO like GMS can provide invaluable assistance to your business in California:

  1. HR expertise: GMS offers expertise in human resources, ensuring that businesses understand the implications of SB 476 and helping them develop policies and procedures to remain compliant. They can advise on how to structure compensation, reimbursements, and employee time management effectively.
  2. Training and education: We provide access to training and educational resources that can assist businesses in offering the required food handler courses to their employees through our learning management system (LMS). This can streamline the process, ensuring employees receive the training they need.
  3. Compliance assistance: SB 476 introduces a significant level of complexity regarding employee compensation and compliance. Our experts help business owners understand and adhere to these new requirements, reducing the risk of legal issues and penalties.
  4. Recruitment and onboarding: Since SB 476 eliminates the need for food handler cards as a precondition for employment, businesses might face an influx of job applicants. Our HR experts can help streamline the recruitment and onboarding process, saving time and resources.
  5. Employee benefits: We offer comprehensive benefits packages that can help businesses attract and retain top talent in a competitive industry. This can be appealing to potential employees who value additional benefits beyond fair compensation.

By leveraging GMS’ expertise, training resources, and support, California business owners in the food industry can thrive in this evolving landscape while prioritizing their employees and their bottom line. Contact us today to learn more.

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