As of February 16, 2022, major Hollywood filmmaking unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have collectively agreed to extend the safety protocol mandates of the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement through at least April 30, 2022.
Select policies within the Agreement have also been updated to better reflect the still evolving realities of film production during the global pandemic.
Reminder for anyone that isn’t aware, the mandates outlined in the Return to Work Agreement are the result of collaboration and negotiation by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, IATSE, Teamsters, as well as the Basic Crafts unions.
The Agreement’s mandates originally went into effect back on September 21, 2020. Since their debut, the Return to Work Agreement’s health and safety protocols have been widely regarded as effective in mitigating the on-set risk of cast and crew exposure to COVID-19.
On February 16, 2022, all negotiating parties agreed to extend the Return to Work Agreement’s lifespan. The current Return to Work Agreement is set to expire on April 30, 2022.
But this isn’t the first extension that the Return to Work Agreement’s received.
In fact, the Return to Work Agreement’s expiration date has been extended on no less than three prior occasions since its initial implementation.
With each extension of the Return to Work Agreement, the negotiating parties have revisited its stipulations with the changing state of the entertainment industry and the most updated CDC guidelines in mind. This most recent extension comes with a handful of small but notable changes that just might affect your next production.
Several modifications to the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement have been made in conjunction with the recent expiration date extension. In some cases, the modifications seem designed to address heightened infection rates associated with the omicron variant. In others, modifications seem designed to keep step with steadily loosening CDC guidelines nationwide.
Let’s break down the major updates to the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement, one by one:
The headlining modification made to the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement’s mandates is its redefinition of the term “Fully Vaccinated.”
Previously, the Agreement was amended to allow producers to institute mandatory vaccination requirements for cast and crew members working in select set areas on a production-by-production basis. The most recent update to the Agreement further stipulates that only individuals who are “up to date” on their vaccinations, per the CDC’s definition of that term, will be considered “fully vaccinated” under the Return to Work Agreement.
In essence, this modification means that some cast and crew members may be required to have received a booster shot to be considered “fully vaccinated” and, therefore, eligible to work.
Note, however, that this is not a blanket rule covering all cast and crew. The language of the Return to Work Agreement clarifies that, “[A]n individual who has received a primary series of vaccines as outlined by the CDC need not receive a booster dose until eligible in order to be ‘up to date.’”
This redefinition of “Fully Vaccinated” is set to go into effect on March 15, 2022 for individuals employed in the United States and April 1, 2022 for those employed outside of the U.S.
Recent modifications to the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement further update and upgrade mask requirements for situations in which masks are required. The Agreement states that, “When masks are required, individuals shall wear a KN95, KF94, N95 mask, or when there is a fit issue, a well-fitting surgical mask[.]”
For comparison, previous mask mandates in the Return to Work Agreement did not differentiate between various types of masks (cloth masks, surgical masks, respirators, etc.).
Critically, this recent modification further reinforces the responsibility for “Employers” to provide the specified masks to cast and crew, ensuring that the burden of purchase does not fall on individual employees.
Though N95 and surgical masks are already staples in film, TV, and commercial production thanks to the prevalence of COVID-19 Safety Compliance Officers, this modification codifies best practices for masking on set.
The updated Return to Work Agreement affords all employees a total of ten days of temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave per producer. This amendment effectively refills the potential COVID-19 sick days for all cast and crew, many of whom have exhausted previous volumes of paid sick days over the course of the last several months.
However, the ten days of sick leave will not be guaranteed over an indefinite period of time. Instead, they may only be claimed during a period starting on February 14, 2022 and ending on September 30, 2022.
Each employee’s ten days of temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave may be used to cover “one or more eligible COVID-19 events”, meaning that the days may be distributed across multiple outbreaks or infections as necessary until the total number of available days reaches zero.
Finally, the negotiating parties behind the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement have mutually expanded the number and variety of acceptable antigen tests permitted for use in such situations that the Agreement authorizes the use of antigen tests over their PCR counterparts.
Antigen tests are notably cheaper and faster than PCR tests, thus their use potentially grants productions increased flexibility under applicable circumstances.
Where authorized, the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement now permits express usage of the following antigen tests:
Parties involved with the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement have also agreed to review additional tests in Canada to add to the above list of approved tests.
To read the current modifications to the Return to Work Agreement in their entirety, click here.
As the entertainment industry continues to work through a global pandemic, learning to conduct business with safety and health as top priorities is more sensitive and critical than ever before. To help filmmakers and other industry professionals navigate the process with as much confidence, ease, and efficiency as possible, Wrapbook put together a COVID-19 Filmmaking Resource Center, including a comprehensive guide free for the taking.
The COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement is a living document designed to help the entertainment industry adapt to the evolving needs of its labor force. As circumstances continue to change, be sure to keep an eye on this page for any updates.
At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.