Restaurant and catering services are everywhere an interesting option for foreigners in search for their first jobs. So are in Finland, where thousands of people look at bars, restaurants, cafes or pubs as a possible source of employment. But manipulating the food and drinks that others consume is a great responsibility, so to access this type of jobs there are prerequisites and the applicants need specific training.
No matter if you are a professional in the restaurant sector or a student who wants to combine a part-time job with your academic training, in Finland everybody must meet a series of requirements that enable to manipulate food and drinks. In the case of the food, those requirements are established by the Food Act and here we are going to explain you how to fulfil them.
The Food Safety Authority (Evira) is a Finnish public agency that has among its tasks to ensure food safety, promote animal health and welfare and develop the prerequisites for plant and animal production. According to the information provided in its webpage, anyone who works on food premises or handles unpacked perishable foodstuffs such as meat, fish or milk needs a Food Hygiene Passport.
For which jobs this certificate is required
Food premises are for instance cafes, restaurants, fast food restaurants, institutional kitchens, food shops, some kiosks, bakeries and factories that produce foodstuffs. Therefore, to work in such places employees are required to have a Hygiene Passport. This certificate is required also from students or trainees and even the employer has to have one if manipulates perishable foods.
Operators in the food business are required by the authorities to ensure at their own expenses that employees handling food are given the necessary training and instructions for their work tasks. For this reason, many job offers in this sector include among the requirements that the applicant is in possession of a Hygiene Passport and a certificate of Alcohol Proficiency.
This is applicable also for people who intend to work at the kitchens of day care centres and aged care facilities. And also for the employees of bakeries if perishable, unpacked foodstuffs are handled in the bakery, such as meat pastries or egg and rice pastries, meat pies and pizzas
In the case of food shops it might depend on the type of duties performed by the employee. Normally the person who works at the check-out is not required if does not have among his/her tasks handling perishable foodstuffs, such us for example serving customers at the meat or fish counter. Employees of the fruit/vegetable department will need one if they peel chop or package peeled/chopped vegetables, fruits, berries or mushrooms.
Three months to get it
But if you don´t have one, you must not worry more than necessary. The law says that a Hygiene Passport has to be acquired within 3 months at the latest after start working. It is important to point that those 3 months are calculated retrospectively and also include previous work within the food sector for which a Hygiene Passport is required. So, you can work on food premises for 3 months without it, even if you handle unpacked, perishable foodstuffs. But if you intend to continue employed in this business, eventually you will have to get one.
The Hygiene Passport consists of two parts: a proficiency certificate in paper format and a Hygiene Proficiency Card.
To check how the Proficiency Certificate paper looks like, click HERE
If you want to see a model of a Hygiene Proficiency Card, you can do it HERE
The original of any of both can be used as a proof for the employer. The Hygiene Passport is a personal property, so the Finnish Food Authority recommends the owner to keep always both the original parts rather than handling them over to the employers.
How to get the Hygiene Passport
Anyone can get a Hygiene Passport by getting a pass grade in a proficiency test or by having a suitable qualification or education in the food sector.
Proficiency tests are organised by independent Proficiency examiners in different parts of Finland. There are over 2,000 approved by Elvira all over Finland. Note that those exams have to be done inside of the Finnish territory, accredited proficiency examiners NEVER organise tests outside the country.
The test includes 40 true/false statements and to pass it the participants need to score at least 34/40. The statements are related to the different aspects of food hygiene and the person tested needs to mark with an 'X' in a box either ‘True’ or ‘False’, depending on if agrees with the statement or not. Normally applicants have 45 minutes to answer the tests (in Finnish and Swedish) but for special situations (for example tests in English or other translated languages) there is no time limit stated.
The proficiency organisers are independent, though their activity is supervised by Evira. Some of them even provide their services in foreign languages. It is them who decide when and for whom they will organise proficiency tests. The tests are organised almost daily in different parts of the country.
You can register for a test and find all the information about the Hygiene Passport HERE
If you need to purchase the study materials for the test in your language, click HERE
The Alcohol Act also establishes that anyone who works serving alcohol must have an Alcohol Proficiency Certificate. Those are issued by educational institutions that provide training in the restaurant and catering sector and might be issued to someone who has passed a test on the Alcohol Act or who has completed training or a qualification that includes that knowledge.
According to the information provided by the Finnish National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), serving of alcoholic beverages means the sale of alcoholic beverages to be consumed on premises controlled by the seller or under the seller’s supervision. The seller must apply for and receive a license to serve alcohol before starting operations. Any alcoholic beverages containing more than 2.8% alcohol cannot be sold without a licence, according the sections 5 and 6 of the Alcohol Act.
In other words, Alcohol Proficiency test must be completed by all those who wish to act as a responsible manager or as a substitute at licensed premises.
Anyone can gain an Alcohol Passport by participating in an alcohol proficiency test arranged by an educational institution of the food and catering industry. Alcohol proficiency test arrangements depend on the educational institution, so some contents like question types, number of questions and needed score to pass can vary. Education must be at least one year long and include at least an internship period of 6 months at licensed premises.
The structure of the exam is quite similar to those for Hygiene Passports. They consist on correct or incorrect statements and the applicant must choose if they are true or false. Depending on the institution that organises it, Proficiency tests may be done in writing or on a computer.
When doing the Alcohol Proficiency Test you will be asked about alcohol legislation and knowledge of drinks. The questions of the test will deal with issues such as serving activity, advertising alcohol beverages at restaurants, supervision and sanctions.
If you want to sign up for the Alcohol Proficiency tests, you can do it HERE