ACTRA Toronto
COVID-19 Return to Work Best Practices Guideline

The Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19 Guideline, was developed by the Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in the summer of 2020, amended on November 24, 2020 and amended again on January 26, 2021. ACTRA Toronto has created an overview of highlights for Performers in the FAQ below. Please refer to the complete Guideline document  (as well as the Amendment Summary document) for complete information.


Update: March 5, 2021

“TORONTO — The Ontario Government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is transitioning Toronto, Peel and North Bay Parry Sound District public health regions out of the shutdown and into the revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (the “Framework”), with the Stay-at-Home order no longer in effect.”

Read the Ontario Government news release.

As of Monday, March 8th, there will be no performer cap on productions in any Ontario region.

Adherence to the Section 21 health and safety guidelines remains mandatory for all productions in Ontario.


ACTRA Toronto requires productions to adhere to the guideline and also to develop health & safety policies of their own. Productions are required to send a copy of their COVID-19 health and safety policy to ACTRA Toronto in advance of Performers providing services. Read ACTRA’s Reference Note for Engagers.

Knowledge is power. Know your rights and responsibilities under the law and under ACTRA’s contracts. Performers should not be asked to waive their rights to being insured. 

IF IN DOUBT, DON’T SIGN WAIVERS WITHOUT CONSULTING ACTRA. 


COVID-19 BEST PRACTICES FAQ

Specific tips for Performers on how to return to work safely and responsibly can be found in the Performers FAQ (gold tab in the FAQ below) and, right below it, the COVID-19 Testing FAQ goes into detail about testing requirements.

Click on any section to display/hide the relevant guidelines.

GENERAL
  • Productions should identify the management persons chiefly responsible for enforcing COVID-19 prevention/response and provide the contact information if workers have concerns.
  • To help stop the spread of COVID-19, everyone should comply with the requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and with associated regulations and public health directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • All workers should be provided and required to review the Guideline, and relevant production policies and protocols prior to commencing work.
  • All workers should be trained by a qualified person on the Guideline and Production safety policy, the proper use of personal protective equipment, disinfection techniques and handwashing/sanitization techniques.
  • Productions should consider the additional time and supports needed to carry out these duties.
    • Prevention methods in order of effectiveness:
    • Physical distancing
    • Physical barriers
    • Enhanced handwashing and personal hygiene
    • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Reporting health concerns to employer and public health
PROTECTING YOURSELF & OTHERS
  • Workers should be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-19 can be spread person to person through close contact, including while at work.
  • Workers should self-screen before coming to work.
  • Workers should not attend the workplace if they are symptomatic or required to isolate due to a quarantine order or direction from public health.
  • Productions should have a procedure in place if someone symptomatic attends the workplace.
  • Workers who are symptomatic or is aware that someone in the workplace is symptomatic should report it to Production and notify their union.
  • Returning to work for previously symptomatic workers may require clearance from Production, health care providers, and the local public health unit.
SCREENINGS & SYMPTOMS
  • Screening should take place before individuals are allowed entry into the workplace.
  • Individuals may be required to answer a health questionnaire.
  • Temperature testing with a contactless thermometer may be required in addition to the health questionnaire.
  • There should be a protocol to manage when individuals do not pass the screening.
  • There should be a system to identify persons who have passed the screening.
  • At the time of writing, the government of Ontario’s online self-assessment tool lists the following symptoms: Additional symptoms may be identified as we learn more about COVID-19.
    • Fever (feeling hot to the touch, a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher)
    • Chills
    • Cough that's new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
    • Barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing (croup)
    • Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Runny nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • Stuffy or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • Lost sense of taste or smell
    • Pink eye(conjunctivitis)
    • Headache that’s unusual or long lasting
    • Digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
    • Muscle aches
    • Extreme tiredness that is unusual (fatigue, lack of energy)
    • Falling down often
    • For young children and infants: sluggishness or lack of appetite
  • Workers who have symptoms related to COVID-19 should be sent home. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses, like the cold and flu. Workers exhibiting any symptoms (regardless of whether the illness has been confirmed) are required to be sent home. Public Health Ontario has provided helpful guidance on self-monitoring and self-isolation.
  • In addition, employers should advise these workers to complete the online self-assessment or call either:
    • Telehealth: 1-866-797-0000
    • Their primary care provider (for example, family physician)
AUDITIONS
  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available.
  • Remote auditions are highly encouraged.
  • If absolutely required, in-person auditions should avoid open calls and "go-sees".
  • In-person auditions must allow for physical distancing through a variety of means:
    • Scheduling longer times between auditions to avoid congestion
    • Reducing the number of people in the audition room
    • Asking performers to wait outside (e.g. In their vehicle) until called to come inside
    • Ensuring waiting spaces are large enough to allow for physical distancing
  • Reduced physical paperwork, more digital paperwork
  • No shared paper sides
  • Disinfecting any surfaces or props touched by a performer between auditions
REHEARSALS
  • Rehearsals and table reads should be done remotely if possible.
  • If remote rehearsals and table reads are not possible, physical distancing and the prevention methods listed above should be utilized to ensure performer health & safety.
VOICE PERFORMANCE

For further information, see the Best Practices – Voice Studios page.

  • Voice recording should be done remotely if possible.
  • Producers should consider supplying disinfected recording kits to performers to assist with remote recordings.
  • If remote voice recordings are not possible, physical distancing and the prevention methods listed above should be utilized to ensure performer health & safety.
  • Avoid any group recording sessions, if possible.
  • Disinfect all surfaces and equipment performers come into contact with before and after each session.
  • Allow performers to bring their own headphones.
ON-SET
  • Divide workers (e.g. cast and crew) into pods with processes as to how to access, and who will access, the different areas.
  • Limit the sets and offices to essential personnel only – for example, implementing "closed-set" rules.
  • Avoid or limit large crowd scenes.
  • Use boom microphones instead of LAV microphones.
  • Wherever possible, have performers perform tasks that would usually require a worker to be closer than 2 metres from the performer – for example, instructing performers how, and allowing them, to wire themselves for sound/put on their own LAV microphones.
  • Provide single-occupancy dressing rooms.
  • Performers should be directed while maintaining physical distance of at least 2 metres. Avoid touching or physically moving performers into position.
  • Provide background holding and change areas that allow for physical distancing, including arranging for background holding to be outdoors, if possible (and weather permitting).
  • Require any individuals who interact with a performer at a distance of less than 2 metres to wear a mask and face shield and wash/sanitize hands.
  • Where performers agree to touch one another during a scene, performers must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after each take.
  • Limit the repetition of physical touching, as much as possible.
  • Permit the performer handling a prop to reset the prop between takes.
  • Provide sufficient washroom facilities, handwashing/sanitizing stations, receptacles for disposable personal protective equipment, etc., for the number of workers, and work that will be performed, on the site.
STUNTS
  • Allocate time to adequately clean and disinfect stunt equipment.
  • Require any individuals who interact with a performer at a distance of less than 2 metres to wear a mask and face shield and wash/sanitize hands.
  • Where performers agree to touch one another during a scene, performers must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after each take.
  • Limit the repetition of physical touching, as much as possible.
CHILD PERFORMERS
  • Extra care and consideration should be given when child performers and their parents/guardians will be on set.
  • Interaction between child performers and others should be limited as much as possible.
  • If possible, a separate holding area should be provided for child performers.
  • Virtual/remote tutoring should be considered.
  • When possible, tutoring locations should not be used for other purposes. Tutoring locations should be appropriately disinfected in between each use.
  • Minimal styling will be provided for child performers.
FOOD
  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available in or close to food service areas.
  • All individuals should wash their hands before and after entering.
  • Physical distancing should be maintained. Measures may include staggered mealtimes, floor markings, and different eating areas.
  • Foods should be individually packaged.
  • Bring food and a water bottle from home if possible, there may not be food offered on some sets.
  • All individuals should put their garbage directly into bins and not leave it for others to clean up.
  • Access to craft truck for food servers only
  • Disposable plates, bowls, etc. and individually packaged cutlery should be used.
HAIR/MAKE-UP/WARDROBE
  • Protocols will be in place to maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres within hair, make-up and wardrobe facilities, as possible. Such protocols may include:
    • Establishing and posting a maximum number of individuals who may be present in a trailer or change area
    • Limiting the number of performers that may be in a space receiving styling at a time
    • Placing workstations at least 2 metres apart
    • Scheduling make-up tests and fittings to avoid overlap/congestion
  • Adequately vent all work areas.
  • No eating or drinking in the hair/make-up/wardrobe area when work is being done on performers.
  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available in or close to hair/make-up/wardrobe areas.
  • Stylists working on performers should wash or sanitize their hands before and after working on a performer.
  • Some performers may be requested to do their own hair/make-up/touch-ups while being directed, from a distance, by a stylist/artist.
  • Have separate supplies (e.g. make-up, applicators, brushes, hair pins, etc.) for each individual cast member and store these supplies in separately marked bags.
  • Avoid sharing make-up between performers.
  • Use disposable applicators, brushes, etc., when possible.
  • Mix make-up on disposable palettes, when possible.
  • De-pot make-up, where possible.
  • Provide disposable single-use chair covers for each performer.
  • Disinfect wardrobe items regularly, for example, before/after each use and before/after being placed in storage.
  • Bag costumes separately by performer.
  • Have separate wardrobe pieces for stunt performers, doubles.
  • Utilize underdressed second skin costumes to limit direct contact with wardrobe pieces.
TRANSPORTATION
  • Masks should be worn in vehicles when multiple individuals are present, even if physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in all passenger vehicles where individuals will be seated.
  • Keep the windows down in the vehicle, weather permitting, to improve air circulation.
  • No eating or drinking in passenger vehicles any time that a passenger is present.
  • All items that a passenger brings into a vehicle, including any garbage, should be removed by that individual, and not left for the driver, or anyone else, to clean up.
  • Regularly disinfect all frequent touchpoints such as door handles and window buttons.
  • Disposable seat covers should be available in passenger vehicles and individuals must dispose of their own seat cover.
  • All vehicles will be thoroughly disinfected at the start or end of each day.
PERFORMERS FAQ
Where can I find information about health and safety on returning to work?
Consult the ACTRA Toronto website for the most up to date information on COVID-19. Performers are also encouraged to review the Film and Television Industry Health and Safety During COVID-19 Guideline prepared by the Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. The guideline was developed together with the other guilds, unions, film, television and commercial producers and then approved and published by the Ministry. As part of the Ministry’s approval process, the guideline was reviewed by medical, legal and public health officials. ACTRA Toronto will require productions to adhere to the guideline as well as develop health and safety policies of their own.
What health & safety measures can I expect?
Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from workplace hazards. Productions are required to send a copy of their COVID-19 health and safety policy to ACTRA Toronto in advance of Performers providing services. Public health advises that physical distancing is one of the primary methods of protecting workers. As a result, Performers can expect measures to minimize contact such as remote auditions and casting, virtual meetings, fewer people on set, floor markings and designated spaces, staggered schedules and breaks, and self-drives. Performers may be asked to apply their own makeup, dress and mic themselves, move their own props, and dispose of their garbage. When physical distancing is not possible, productions must use barriers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) like masks and gloves. Proper handwashing or sanitizing, and the cleaning and disinfection of materials, surfaces and equipment are key prevention strategies. These measures can include increase handwashing and sanitizing stations, frequent and intensive cleaning procedures, ventilation of studios, vehicles and other confined spaces, use of disposable brushes and applicators, individually wrapped foods, and protocols that will reduce contact on surfaces such documents, costumes, props, sets, mics and equipment.
Will I be trained on health and safety measures?
Productions are required to have a COVID-19 health and safety policy and provide training to workers. ACTRA Toronto will also outreach to members by hosting town halls, updating our website, and developing other resource materials. While ACTRA Toronto can provide information generally about health and safety on returning to work, it remains the responsibility of employers to train Performers on the protocols in the specific workplace.
Will I be insured? Why you should NOT sign waivers.
Productions are required to obtain workers compensation insurance coverage or its equivalent and provide proof on request. Performers should not be asked to waive their rights to being insured. ACTRA Toronto is working with agents and monitoring the situation. If you are asked to sign a waiver or mistakenly signed one, notify ACTRA and provide a copy of the document. If you are or suspect you are working without insurance, contact ACTRA immediately.
Will I have to be screened before going to work?
Public health is directing that screening should take place to assess the health and wellness of individuals before entry into the workplace. It is anticipated that workers will be asked to answer a questionnaire. Temperature testing with a contactless thermometer is also possible in addition to the questionnaire. Other forms of testing are currently not available in Ontario. ACTRA Toronto is monitoring the issue considering the requirements set out by public health and government authorities, with a view to protecting member safety, privacy, human rights and other relevant considerations.
Am I required to be tested on each Production?
ACTRA Toronto currently requires all productions to include COVID-19 testing plans in their safety protocols. According to the Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19 Guideline, developed by the Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development:
  • Workplace COVID-19 protocols should include plans to address whether, and the extent to which diagnostic testing of cast and appropriate crew will take place. Where it is appropriate based on significantly negative public health indicators (e.g. high weekly incidence rates) at the time and in the area that production is operating, production should implement regular diagnostic testing for appropriate individuals. Any diagnostic testing should adhere to guidance from applicable public health authorities.
Can a production require multiple tests?
Yes. An employer in the province of Ontario can require ongoing testing as a condition of employment.
How long does it take to get test results?
Wait times vary per public health unit.
What if I don’t get my test results before the day I am scheduled to work?
As the employer is booking the test times, they should be allowing adequate time for results to be returned. If the results are not available by the time work is scheduled to begin, the Producer will need to reschedule or cancel the booking as per the applicable collective agreement.
Can a Producer require a performer to isolate between taking a test and their scheduled workday?
Yes. Producers who require performers to isolate must pay the performer as per the applicable collective agreement, e.g. IPA Article 1802.
Can Productions share test results with other Productions to help minimize the number of tests being done?
Federal privacy legislation prevents a Production from sharing personal health records and the results of COVID tests. However, individuals can choose to share their COVID results where a Production permits. ACTRA Toronto is working with Production companies to identify how performers can share their results to help minimize the need for multiple testing in a week when performers are moving from set to set. Accepting results from other productions will be up to the discretion of the Producer.
Why isn’t there a central database with test results that can be shared?
Again, federal privacy legislation prevents multiple productions from accessing a central database. The decision to share personal health records rests with the individual performer.
Is there compensation for being tested?
Yes. Mandatory tests require payment. For example, the minimum fee under the IPA is two hours or time spent getting tested, whichever is greater. Performers are encouraged to negotiate above these minimum terms.
Is travel time included?
Some performers are being asked to travel to Brampton. No travel time is owed inside the 40km zone.
Can Productions refuse to hire me because I am in a “high risk” category for COVID-19?
ACTRA’s agreements and Ontario’s Human Rights Code protects Performers from discrimination and harassment. ACTRA Toronto has and will continue to communicate to Productions that decisions concerning work opportunities and fitness to work must not be based on racism, ageism, ableism or other stereotypes. We will continue to support Productions in casting Performers in roles that reflect the composition of Canadian society.
Will I have to self-isolate as a condition of work?
Productions requiring Performers to self-isolate are required to comply with all the fees and terms in ACTRA’s agreement. Productions cannot require Performers to be compensated at rates, terms, or subject to working conditions that are less favourable. If you are asked to self-quarantine without pay in advance of your engagement, restricted from taking other work, or sent home due to a suspected illness or COVID-19 exposure, speak with your agent or contact ACTRA Toronto.
Do I need to isolate after working on a production?
Most regions in Ontario are still operating under some restrictions given the numbers of COVID cases and the new variant. When you are not working, the best advice is to stay home, reducing your exposure to anyone who may have COVID. The protocols in place with productions are rigorous and to-date have prevented any spread of COVID on sets. We must all continue to be vigilant and follow the protocols carefully: wear a mask and PPE, maintain physical distance and wash or sanitize hands frequently.
What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19 on the Production?
The Production’s COVID-19 health and safety policy will have a procedure for what happens when a worker tests positive for COVID-19. This is also addressed in the Film and Television Industry Health and Safety During COVID-19 Guideline. Under ACTRA’s agreement, Productions are required to notify ACTRA as soon as possible of any accident, incident or injury concerning a Performer and file an incident report within one (1) business day. This includes when a Performer becomes ill or is at risk of COVID-19 exposure from the workplace.
What if someone tests positive on a set after I have worked. Will I be notified?
Production and individuals affected will take their lead from public health officials in terms of contact tracing. If an individual tests positive that you have been in close contact with, you may get an alert on your phone if you and the individual are using the COVID-19 app or you may be contacted by public health. The definition of close contact varies with each public health division so again, best to check the Ontario government and municipal COVID pages for more information.
If someone tests positive and another performer is asked to quarantine because of possible exposure, will they be paid for lost work?
If a performer is booked on Show A and Show A requires them to isolate and they are missing a day of work on Show A, they would receive one sick day. If they missed work on Show B for potential exposure on Show A, no payment would be owed.
I live with someone who has a compromised immune system. Is it safe for me to go to work?
Best advice is for both of you to consult your doctor. However, the safety protocols on productions to-date have prevented any spread of COVID-19 on sets. If someone does test positive on a set you work on and you are advised to isolate by public health, you should wear a mask, exercise physical distance and wash hands frequently when at home.
I am having anxiety about going to work – where can I get help?
Immediate counselling and support are available 24/7 at HAVEN Helpline 1-855-201-7823. None of us can anticipate how we might feel while living and attempting to work during a global pandemic. Anxiety over health concerns is real. If you feel you may be unable to fulfil your engagement, speak to your agent or contact ACTRA Toronto.
I have concerns about my safety and the work conditions on set – where can I get help?
Productions are responsible for ensuring a safe work environment. Safety concerns should first be reported to the Production:
  • If your concerns are related to COVID-19, there will be a designated person responsible for enforcing the production’s COVID-19 health and safety policy. Check the call sheet for their contact information.
  • If your issue concerns an intimate scene, assistance may be available from the intimacy coordinator if one has been engaged by the production.
  • If this is an emergency, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives workers the right to refuse work that they believe is unsafe to themselves or others. Workers who believe they are endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work. The specific procedure to follow in order to establish a work refusal may be found here.
You can also contact ACTRA at the following:
  • During office hours – 416-928-2278 or (toll-free) 1-877-913-2278
  • 24/7 at HAVEN Helpline – 1-855-201-7823
  • Non-emergency afterhours – afterhours@actratoronto.com
What if I refuse to follow the safety measures required by the Production?
You are required by law to adhere to the measures adopted by government and public health authorities. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires workers to work in compliance with the Act, and not conduct themselves in a manner that could endanger themselves or others. Under ACTRA’s agreements, Constitution and By-laws, you are required to maintain professional conduct which includes not engaging in behaviours that endanger other members, jeopardizes the Production or brings the profession into disrepute. If you are concerned that a specific measure is contrary to ACTRA’s agreements, your rights under the Human Rights Code or at law, raise your concerns with production, your agent or ACTRA Toronto. During the global pandemic, there have been reports of increased harassment and violence against workers, especially when they are attempting to enforce safety measures in their workplace. These are stressful circumstances for everyone. Please be kind, patient and respectful of others.
Where can I find information about the Human Rights Code as it relates to COVID-19?
COVID-19 and Ontario’s Human Rights Code – Questions and AnswersUpdated August 11, 2020The OHRC has developed a series of questions and answers for understanding your human rights and obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.These questions and answers cover the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, tenants and landlords, as well as residential institutions.[Disclaimer: The answers to the questions posed do not constitute legal advice. The OHRC continues to monitor the evolving situation and will update or add to these questions and answers on an ongoing basis as needed.]
COVID-19 Testing FAQ
1. Do all Productions compensate performers the same way for going to get a COVID test?
The minimum work time allowable under the IPA is 2 hours when the work doesn’t happen in front of a camera or microphone. When required to appear in front of camera, the minimum work time is 8 hours and 4 hours for voice only work.
2. Do all Productions pay according to the IPA?
Most productions compensate following the IPA. Some productions have chosen to follow the Return to Work Agreement from the US Unions and Guilds. Others are offering an 8 hour day for testing.
3. Why isn’t there consistency or a standard for COVID test payment in Ontario?
The IPA establishes minimum terms and conditions. Agents and performers are encouraged to negotiate for terms above those in the IPA.
4. I heard that crew get paid more for tests then ACTRA members. Is that true?
The technical guilds only have daily minimum fees. In some instances, they have signed on to the Return to Work Agreement which reduces the payment they receive for testing.
5. Why didn’t ACTRA sign onto the Return to Work Agreement?
ACTRA negotiates with the  Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), not the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (“AMPTP”) that negotiated the Return to Work Agreement.
6. I heard that ACTRA members in BC are compensated differently. Why?
UBCP ACTRA work under the British Columbia Master Agreement (BCMPA) and not the Independent Production Agreement (IPA). They negotiate that agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and not the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA)/ l’Association québécoise de la production médiatique (AQPM).
7. How can ACTRA members get paid more for tests? Can ACTRA change the language in the IPA?
ACTRA cannot unilaterally change the language in the IPA. However, we will be going into bargaining later this year. Members will have an opportunity through bargaining surveys and focus groups to talk about their concerns and suggestions for contract improvements. In the meantime, all terms and conditions in the IPA are minimums. Performers and their agents can negotiate rates above minimum.
8. Why do I have to pay my Agent a commission on the fee I am paid for testing?
Testing is considered work time. It is not a stipend or an honorarium. Much like with rehearsals, fittings or training sessions, testing is work.
9. What about performers who live outside of Toronto or a distance from the studio or testing site?
Ask your Agent or speak with Production about having the test done at a location closer to where you live. Some productions are providing vouchers for local labs to save performers travel time. Travel time provisions in the IPA are applicable.
10. What has ACTRA done to address the concerns members have raised about testing?
The practice of diagnostic testing as part of safety protocols has evolved through the pandemic. Initially, there was no requirement to include testing as part of the COVID safety protocols but many productions adopted testing as part of their plans. As COVID case numbers increased in the community, testing was increasingly seen as an integral component of safety plans. ACTRA issued a bulletin in January requiring all Productions to include testing as part of their safety protocols and advocated inclusion of testing in the Section 21 Guidelines. The Guidelines was amended to include testing and are now enforced through the government regulation. Testing plans are now mandatory in Ontario.In terms of relieving performers of the requirement to be tested multiple times in a week, ACTRA has worked with the Studios and Producers to allow performers to share their results with other Productions. If you are being tested already in a week and asked to test again by another Production, ask that Production if you can share the first results.

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