On January 1, 2024, the Governor of California introduced a new law that transfers the financial responsibility of obtaining Food Handler Cards from employees to employers.
The enactment of California SB 476 is set to have a notable impact on California's food industry regulations as it means that employers in the state must cover all costs related to Food Handler Certification on behalf of their employees.
In this blog, we’ll explore the specifics of SB 476 and provide a 10-step action plan for you to follow in response to this new legislation.
Food Handler Cards
The requirement for food handlers in California to possess a valid Food Handler Card within 30 days of employment has been a longstanding mandate. These cards, typically valid for three years, can only be obtained through training providers accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
SB 476 does not alter these existing regulations, but instead focuses on transferring the financial obligations to the employer.
New Responsibilities for Employers
Following the enactment of SB 476, employers in the food service industry face several new responsibilities.
Employers are now responsible for covering the costs of training, testing, and any other elements necessary for staff to participate in the food handler certification process.
Training During Business Hours
One of the primary impacts of this law is the requirement for training to occur during regular business hours, at no expense to the employee. Employers must now schedule and pay for the time employees spend in training and certification.
Businesses must allow staff to complete the relevant courses during work hours without engaging in other duties while compensating them at their regular pay rate.
To ensure that the hiring process remains free from discrimination, employers are prohibited from selecting candidates based on whether or not they already possess a Food Handler Card. SB 476 stipulates that all applicants must be considered, regardless of their current certification status.
10 Steps to Ensuring SB 476 Compliance
With the introduction of SB 476 in California, employers in the food industry are now required to bear the costs of obtaining Food Handler Cards for their employees. This significant policy shift necessitates a comprehensive and proactive approach to ensure smooth compliance. Below are 10 important steps that can be followed to guide employers through this transition.
1. Policy Revision and Documentation
Revise your company's food handler and timekeeping policies to include provisions that explicitly state the employer's responsibility for all costs and time spent obtaining Food Handler Cards. Ensure these policies are well-documented and accessible to all employees.
2. Inform and Train Management
Educate managers and supervisors about the new law and its implications. Training should cover adjusting schedules, allocating labor, managing timekeeping and ensuring employees are relieved from other duties during training periods.
3. Update Hiring and Onboarding Processes
Modify your hiring processes and onboarding materials to incorporate the new requirements. Ensure that new hires are aware of the training schedule and that they understand the certification process is a paid component of their orientation.
4. Implement Effective Timekeeping Practices
Develop or refine timekeeping practices to accurately record the time employees spend in training. This ensures compliance with wage and hour laws and provides clear documentation of the training time.
5. Schedule and Facilitate Training Sessions
Organize training sessions during regular business hours. Ensure that these sessions are scheduled in a way that minimizes disruption to business operations while still complying with the law.
6. Financial Planning and Budgeting
Adjust your financial planning to accommodate the additional costs associated with this new requirement. This includes the direct costs of the training and certification and the labor costs for the time employees spend in training.
7. Communicate Changes to Employees
Clearly communicate these changes to your employees. Ensure they understand that the training is mandatory, paid, and a part of their job responsibilities.
8. Monitor Compliance and Legal Updates
Regularly monitor compliance with the new legislation and stay informed about any updates or changes. This might involve consulting with legal experts or staying updated through industry associations.
9. Review and Select a Training Program
Opt for an ANSI-accredited Food Handler Course that meets California state requirements.
10. Establish an Ongoing Certification Tracking System
Implement a system to track the certification status of all employees. This ensures that staff members possess a valid Food Handler Card as required and allows you to schedule recertification training before it expires.
Take Control of Food Handler Certification
SB 476 marks a significant shift in the responsibilities of food businesses in California. To ensure a smooth transition, employers must stay informed and proactively adapt to these changes.
By following the comprehensive steps outlined above, employers can seamlessly navigate the new requirements of SB 476, ensuring legal compliance and maintaining efficient business operations.
Remember, while this guide provides a structured approach, each business may need to tailor these steps to fit its unique operational needs.
Userve is authorized by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) to deliver food handler training in California. If you are interested in enrolling your staff on the California Food Handler Course, you can do so online. Alternatively, contact us to discover how our training programs can help improve food handling procedures throughout your organization.