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.
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. Producers are responsible for collecting this information from Background Actors, not Central Casting; thus, PLEASE DO NOT SEND THIS EVIDENCE TO CENTRAL CASTING. Failure to satisfy either of these conditions in (A) or (B) means the Producer’s job offer is rescinded and the Producer can refuse to hire you.
3. How minors are affected
Minors under age 12 currently do not need to be vaccinated while there is no FDA-approved vaccine for minors in this age group. However, minors age 12 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 12, 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.
Informative podcast from SAG-AFTRA discussing the Return to Work Agreement
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. This also means that while Central Casting will not independently verify your vaccination status or your proof of medical disability or religious exception to vaccination, Producers that have elected to have a mandatory vaccination policy can still do so and Producers have the responsibility to collect and verify this information with you.
At most, Central Casting may simply ask you if you fall into either of the following two categories: (1) fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine (currently only Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) or (2) have a disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents vaccination. If you do fall into either of the two categories, you can simply answer “Yes” WITHOUT PROVIDING ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO CENTRAL CASTING. Central Casting plans to have a space in the self-service portal for Background Actors to answer this question. If you answer in the affirmative, select “Yes” for the question, but if you do not want to answer the question for any reason, simply do not answer the question. Producer will be responsible for collecting and verifying the proof that you submit to Producer (not to Central Casting), and Producer (not Central Casting) will verify that you fall into either of the two categories.
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?
Log in to your Central Casting online profile, open the “Key Information” tab, and scroll to the “COVID-19 vaccination question.” Follow the instructions there on how to answer the question. Skip the question if you do not wish to answer for any reason. Be aware that production (not Central Casting) will ask you for evidence of proof of vaccination or exemption if you are selected for their project.
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). Production (not Central Casting) will collect the proof from you directly.
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.