Return to Work Agreement
We want to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and here’s how our industry is helping us do it.
What is the Return to Work Agreement?
It’s the industry’s COVID-19 safety measures for working on sets, negotiated by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the industry’s Unions.
On July 19, 2021, the AMPTP and the Unions issued revisions to the Return to Work Agreement, which sets forth rules impacting workers who work on the production sets of Producers who are signatory to the Agreement. This includes new or revised rules that impact workers in Zone A on the production set. Zone A workers include performers, Background Actors, and all other employees who are present in a workspace with a performer or Background Actor while they are not wearing personal protective equipment in front of the camera. It is because performers and Background Actors must often work without personal protective equipment that these additional safety rules are now in effect.
COVID-19 Booster Requirement Effective March 15, 2022
What is the new booster requirement?
With the updated Return-to-Work agreement between the AMPTP and motion picture industry unions, including SAG-AFTRA, productions that have adopted a mandatory vaccination policy for Zone A of their productions will, starting on March 15, 2022, require all performers and Background Actors who are eligible to get the COVID-19 “booster” to get the booster to be eligible to work. You can view the CDC website to determine if you are eligible for the booster.
If you received the AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccines (which are not available in the U.S.), then you will be deemed to meet the booster requirement if you receive 3 vaccine doses, which may be a combination of vaccines authorized for use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (which are Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca, or Novavax.
Do I need to wait 14 days after my booster to be deemed fully vaccinated to work on a production?
Unlike with prior vaccine doses, there is no need to wait 14 days after the booster to be deemed fully vaccinated; thus, you are deemed boosted as soon as you receive the booster.
Who will verify proof that I have received the booster?
Productions will verify your proof that you have received all required doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and the booster.
What if I am not yet eligible for the booster?
If you are not eligible for the booster yet based on the CDC’s guidance, productions will verify your proof that you are not yet eligible.
Is there still an exemption for people with a medical disability or a sincerely-held religious belief that prevents vaccination?
Same as before, Background Actors seeking an exemption from vaccination based on a medical disability or a sincerely-held religious belief will need to seek, and be granted, an exemption from the production (not from Central Casting) before they are allowed to work for the production.
What are some of the most important items from the Return to Work Agreement impacting Background Actors?
1. Mandatory Vaccination Sets
Producers now have the option of making Zone A into a mandatory vaccination area, meaning COVID-19 vaccination can be required by the Producer. Producers will grant a reasonable accommodation for people who have a medical disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination.
2. Producers can require proof from Background Actors
Producers that elect to have a mandatory vaccination policy are permitted to “condition” any job offer to Zone A workers on the following: (A) satisfactory proof of vaccination status (such as a vaccination card, or a photo of it, or a screenshot of a digital vaccine passport, such as the Excelsior Pass in New York), or (B) satisfactory proof that he/she qualifies for an exception to vaccination based on either a medical disability or a sincerely held religious belief. Failure to satisfy either of these conditions in (A) or (B) means the Producer’s job offer is rescinded and the Producer can refuse to hire you. (Note: If you are selected, only Production will collect and verify your proof of disability/religious belief (if applicable to you), but both Central Casting and Production will each separately collect and verify your proof of vaccination.)
3. How minors are affected
Minors age 4 or younger do not need to be vaccinated at this time. However, minors age 5 and older will need to comply with the same vaccination requirements for Zone A workers, if the Producer has a mandatory vaccination policy for Zone A. When an FDA-approved vaccine becomes available for minors under age 4, additional rules may be issued from the AMPTP and the Unions.
4. Wearing vaccination status ID on set
In order for Producers to enforce rules on the production set that apply to fully vaccinated versus not fully vaccinated individuals, Producers may require workers to wear identification that display fully vaccinated versus not fully vaccinated status while on the production set.
5. Working with minors on set
Studio teachers and any other person who come in close contact with minors on the set will also need to be fully vaccinated, if the Producer elects to have a mandatory vaccination policy.
6. Pre-employment COVID-19 testing
Mandatory pre-employment COVID-19 testing will remain for the current time, and the test result must be negative to be allowed onto the set. However, testing negative does not automatically mean that you are booked to work, and you will still need to receive formal booking details from Central Casting to be considered booked.
7. Wearing masks
Masking requirements for Zone A workers remain unchanged, meaning Zone A workers will still need to follow the Producer’s requirements for masking and other safety protocols while on the production set.
What else to know about shows that have a mandatory vaccination policy?
While Central Casting is not a Producer and Central Casting is not signatory to the Return to Work Agreement, many Producers who hire Background Actors from Central Casting are signatory to the Agreement. Thus, Producers can enforce their own policies and procedures on the set including, but not limited to, complying with the requirements set forth in the Return to Work Agreement. (Note: If you are selected, only Production will collect and verify your proof of disability/religious belief (if applicable to you), but both Central Casting and Production will each separately collect and verify your proof of vaccination.)
What can you do to help productions know that you are either (1) fully vaccinated or (2) have a medical disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination?
Any time you receive a message from a Casting Director, like an availability inquiry, you should answer all questions and fill out all fields. If the production has a mandatory vaccination policy, the message from Casting Directors will say so. And if you meet the criteria and want to submit for the job, follow the instructions in the message on how to submit for the job posting. If you do not meet the criteria, do not want to submit for the job posting, or are unavailable, you can answer “No” or simply don’t respond to the message.
What does it mean that a job offer is “conditioned” on providing proof to the production?
For productions that have a mandatory vaccination policy, any job offer is conditioned on you providing to production proof of fully vaccinated status or proof of disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination. This means that if you cannot provide proof to the production, their job offer will be withdrawn (as though no offer of work was given), and you will not be able to work or take a pre-employment COVID-19 test for that production. Some productions will also require that you bring proof to the production set, and if you arrive to the production set without proof, their job offer will be withdrawn (as though no offer of work was given). (Note: If you are selected, only Production will collect and verify your proof of disability/religious belief (if applicable to you), but both Central Casting and Production will each separately collect and verify your proof of vaccination.)
What constitutes proof of vaccination status?
The following language is from the Return to Work Agreement:
“To verify vaccination status, the Producer shall require individuals to provide one of the following types of proof of vaccination:
a. A digital vaccination card or proof of vaccination as reflected on a passport system sanctioned by the government (e.g., New York’s Excelsior Pass), a system maintained by the vaccination provider or a system that verifies an individual’s vaccination status against government records; or
b. Production of a physical vaccination card, a copy of a physical vaccination card, or an upload of the physical vaccination card.”
What constitutes proof of disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination?
This will be determined by each production according to the production’s own policies and procedures. Central Casting is not involved in this determination. If selected, the production will provide you instructions on how and where to supply this information to the production.
Will you have less opportunity for work if you are not fully vaccinated and/or do not have a medical disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination?
We can’t be certain – only time will tell. But as more productions choose to have a mandatory vaccination policy for their sets, those who are not fully vaccinated or who do not qualify for the exemption will have less opportunity to work.