Many actors do not realize that a Production Contract (i.e. Broadway) is similar to a full-time job offer, meaning... you earn days to use for illness and vacations. Here’s what those benefits usually look like: You earn one sick day for every 4 weeks of work which, if unused, are paid out to you at the end of your year or contract. Plus, you get 2 extra sick days which aren’t paid out to you. For vacation days, you earn a week's worth of vacation pay roughly every 6 months depending on your contract and your negotiated pay.
These provisions were negotiated by the Actor’s Equity Association to help us! Eight shows a week is hard work, and the repetition can take a toll on your physical body and mental well-being. So if you are sick, USE A SICK DAY! I know actors who avoid using their days so that they can get paid out at the end of the contract, but to me, this is a mindset of scarcity. You earn sick days so that you may use them when you are sick. There’s no prize in being the only person that never called out. There’s no bonus attached to pushing your body past its limits and potentially spreading illness to your cast mates.
The same principle applies to vacation days. Vacations are designed to restore and rejuvenate your mental health. The repetition of a show can take a toll on your mind and spirit. Use your vacation days to give yourself a break. Understudies and the swings are there specifically for you to use your sick days and vacation days.
Sick days and Vacation days however are different from personal days. Contractually, you are allotted personal days, but how many you get is up to the discretion of the producer. You can have two with no excuse, and then two that have to be approved based on your reasons. After that, it is up to the producer. Personal days are obviously for personal reasons: weddings, emergencies, etc.
Now, I’ve experienced actors who abuse these benefits, like using a sick day for an audition to book their next job. That is not what these days are for. If you are caught abusing these privileges, you can make it harder for others in the company to get personal days approved. Be honest, and take responsibility for your choices. Just remember that doing theatre should be a joyful experience for all, and if you aren’t enjoying it, use those fairly-earned sick days and vacation days to make yourself a priority and take care of you.
Do you have worries about taking sick days or planning a vacation in the middle of a show? Let me know how you feel in the comments below.