UBCP/ACTRA COVID-19 FAQs – COVID TESTING AND SICK PAY

Since the restarting of our industry, the Union has seen an increase in productions wishing to implement private COVID-19 testing of cast and crew as part of their COVID safety plans.  Additionally, some productions will be requiring employees to complete their COVID-19 safety training course.

Such private testing is separate and distinct from public testing conducted by public health and would be administered by the production.

There are various levels of testing being required, the details of which should be included in the employers COVID-19 Safety Plan.  Do not hesitate to reach out to the Union Representative for your production should you have any questions.

Can a production require that I be tested for COVID-19? 
Yes, a production may require employees to be tested.  However, any testing must meet certain legal requirements in British Columbia. 

Will there be flexibility with available testing times?
The producer shall endeavor to provide flexible testing times within scheduled testing hours.

The Union has been encouraging productions to provide Performers with a testing window rather than a specific time. If a production is not providing you with flexible testing times to accommodate your schedule, please reach out to the Union Representative.

Can a production require that I be tested prior to being hired or booked? 
A Producer may require you to be tested in order to attend an in-person interview, audition, and/or screen test, otherwise you need to be engaged before a producer can require you to undergo a COVID-19 test.

Are all productions testing? 
No, however we are seeing an increase in the number of productions testing. US based productions are testing all of their cast and most of the crew. Other productions may choose to limit testing to those cast members that are required to be in close proximity for extended periods of time or involved in intimate scenes such as kissing.  Ultimately, it is up to each employer to assess the risks and determine whether testing is appropriate for their production.

How often will I be tested?
Testing protocols may vary from production to production. It could be none, once at the beginning of production, or even daily .

How will I get paid for time spent in testing?
It would depend on how the production is conducting testing.

Performers required to either attend testing outside of their homes by the production on a non-work day, or to otherwise leave their homes to pick-up/drop-off a take home (Rapid Antigen) test, will receive a stipend of one hundred dollars ($100.00) plus insurance and retirement contributions for Background Performers or two-hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00) for all other Performers.  Such stipend may cover payment for time spent completing COVID-19 training of up to one hour on either the same day of the test or another day.

If the production conducts “at-home” Rapid Antigen testing on a day the Performer is not otherwise working for that producer, where the Performer is not required to leave their home to pick-up/drop-off the test, and the Performer is able to take the test at their convenience within a 12-hour window designated by the producer, the Performer would receive a stipend of twenty dollars ($20).  

If the producer requires you to do an at-home test before you report to work that day, they can choose to pay either $20 or 3/10ths of an hour (18 minutes) at your hourly rate. Your work time does not start until your call time, so the time you take the test has no impact on turnaround or overtime.

How will I get paid if I have a wardrobe call and COVID-19 test on the same day?
You will be paid either the stipend as described above or time spent working and undergoing the test, whichever is greater.  The one-hour COVID-19 training is not included in the stipend when you work and undergo a test on the same day.

Can the producer require me to take a COVID-19 safety training course?
Yes, they can, if is not included with your stipend as described above, training is considered a four (4) hour minimum call.

Should my agent be charging commission on the fees I receive for COVID-19 testing?
The general rule of thumb is that agent’s commission is based on wages.  Wages are defined in the BC Employment Standards Act and include any money paid or payable by an employer for work as well as money that is paid as an incentive and relates to hours of work, production or efficiency.

The definition of wages also specifies payments that are not considered to be wages, including: gratuities; gifts or money not related to hours of work, production or efficiency; and personal allowances or expenses.

The following table from the Employment Standards website contains a breakdown of the most common payments in wages or non-wages: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards/forms-resources/igm/esr-part-7-section-38-1.

Wages

Not Wages

Wages for straight time and overtime

Travel or mileage expenses

Vacation pay

GST

Wages for wardrobe call

Retirement payments*

Wages for travel time

Insurance benefits/payments

Use fees and residuals

Per diems

Meal penalties or meal periods

Wardrobe fees/Clothing allowance/Special items

Audition reader fees

Compensation for specialized items/prop rentals

Improv fees

Late payment penalties

Stunt performance fees

Audition delay fees

Use of television commercials in a program

Audition recall fees

Rest between days

Callback fees

If you have been charged commission on payments that you don’t believe should be considered wages, you may file a complaint with Employment Standards for a determination.  Please note that BC Employment Standards will not provide an official position on the matter without receiving a complaint.

What happens if I test positive? 
You will be required to self-isolate as per the Provincial Health Authority until you are cleared to return to work.  Please call 8-1-1 for assistance.

COVID EVENT 

If I feel sick, should I go to work? 
If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 and/or feel unwell, it is important that you do not go to work.  Each Production must have a clear policy in place about not coming to work sick. This is key in protecting all workers and limiting the spread of COVID-19.  All of us have to do our part to ensure we are not bringing illness into the workplace so that productions can continue and we can all continue to work.

What happens if I become sick or start to feel unwell while at work?
All workers have a responsibility and duty to report to Production right away if they are feeling unwell.  If you become ill while at the workplace, Production will have protocols in place to arrange for you to go home and notify the affected parties, including supervisors, potentially affected workers, and your Union. You can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you require further assessment.  More information can be found on the BC CDC website.

If you believe you’ve had a work-related exposure to COVID-19, please refer to WorkSafeBC’s COVID-19 claims FAQs for information on when you should report an illness to WorkSafeBC.

If you are a worker who is submitting a claim for a COVID-19 infection contracted through a work-related exposure, you can submit a claim as you would with any other workplace injury or disease. See How workers report a workplace injury or disease.

If you require assistance with this, please contact UBCP/ACTRA.

What happens if I can’t go to work because I have to self-isolate as directed by the Public Health Authorities?
You may qualify for paid sick leave for an “Eligible COVID-19 Event”, which includes the following:

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19; 
  • You are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19; 
  • The Producer has requested that you isolate because you were in close contact with someone who tested positive or exhibited symptoms; 
  • A member of your household has tested positive or exhibited symptoms; 
  • A public official or healthcare provider has requested that you self isolate due to COVID-19; 
  • You must provide care for a child or senior, whose childcare or senior care provider ceases operations due to COVID-19; or 
  • You need to provide for your child, parent or spouse who is subject to federal, provincial or local isolation order related to COVID-19.

Will I qualify for sick pay? 
A Performer shall receive temporary sick pay for each day they are absent from work, until they are able to return or to the end of their engagement, which may include the number of days a Performer is reasonably anticipated to work, to a maximum of ten (10) days. Please note that the allotment of 10 days of COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave was reset effective November 20, 2022, so if you used any Paid Sick Leave days prior to that date, you now would have a full 10-day allotment available to you again.

What if I test positive after I’ve been booked but before my first day of work on the production? 
You would still qualify for sick pay. There is no requirement for Performers to work on set before they are eligible for sick pay.

If I test positive, can a Production cancel my booking? 
Any cancellation of a Performer’s booking due to a positive test would trigger cancellation pay.

How much will I be paid? 
Performers shall be paid their contracted daily rate to a maximum of seven hundred-fifty dollars ($750.00) per day.

What happens if someone on Production tests positive for COVID-19? 
Production’s COVID-19 Safety Plan will have procedures in place to respond to a COVID-19 exposure.  Production is required to notify UBCP/ACTRA of a positive COVID-19 test result or if a Performer is referred to First Aid or receives other medical attention.  It is recommended that you contact UBCP/ACTRA right away if you feel that a workplace exposure has happened.  

OTHER CONSIDERATONS 

Can an employer require that I be vaccinated? 

Any employer wishing to implement a mandatory vaccination or mandatory vaccination disclosure policy in BC will need to ensure that their policy is in compliance with applicable BC Human Rights and Privacy laws. Each policy would have to be legally vetted and could possibly be challenged under applicable provincial or federal law.

British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner recently released policy guidelines on a human rights approach to proof of vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the policy guidelines here.

What if I already had COVID and continue to test positive, will I be able to work? 
Because of the likelihood that a person who has recovered from COVID-19 may still test positive for weeks to months after recovery, some productions are not testing people for 90 days following verified positive results via PCR test.  Rapid antigen test results are not yet accepted by US Studios for official diagnostic purposes in their Canadian operations.  

For example, if a person reports having had a positive rapid antigen test over the holidays, they may still be required to do a PCR test for their return to work, unless a doctor writes that person a note exempting them from testing which can be shared with the production.  If they test positive at that time of returning to work, they’ll likely be asked to quarantine from their production for 5-10 days regardless of their current state of symptoms or how much time has passed since they report having a positive rapid antigen test.  

If you become injured, it is crucial to seek medical attention & report your injury to the appropriate organization(s) as soon as possible to ensure that you receive the support and any potential coverage you are eligible for. 

If you are injured at work: 

  • Report it to your employer immediately (usually First Aid/Craft Service)
  • Get the medical attention you need
  • Report the incident to WorkSafeBC.  
  • Contact your benefit plan (MBT or AFBS) [link to where we have their contact info]  and,
  • Contact the Health & Safety Performer Advocate: [email protected] or call 604-689-0727
  • Contact your benefit provider (MBT or AFBS) 

If you become ill or have been injured outside of work contact your benefits provider to determine what support may be available. 

If you are facing mental health and/or addiction issues these resources may be a help.   

Substance Use Disorder and Addiction Fund for Members.

Calltime Mental Health – In a unique partnership, Teamsters 155, DGC BC, UBCP / ACTRA, IATSE 891, and ICG 669 have come together to provide comprehensive support to members. This is a public resource for all workers in the motion picture industry in BC. 

The Crisis Centre of BC is dedicated to providing help and hope to individuals, organizations, and communities by providing barrier-free, non-judgmental, confidential support through 24/7 phone lines and online services

The Actors Fund of Canada provides a no-cost confidential assistance service that connects arts and entertainment industry workers to mental health resources, programs, and supports.

Concussions

Third party information and resources about concussions and their impact.

Substance Use Disorder & Addiction Fund

This is a fund that provides eligible UBCP/ACTRA Members with financial assistance for the cost of in-patient and out-patient treatment for substance use disorder and addiction.

Health Spending Account for Seniors

UBCP/ACTRA offers a program that provides up to $250 reimbursement per benefit year to qualifying UBCP/ACTRA Members.

For after hours reports of health and safety issues such as harassment and discrimination please email [email protected]