Labour & Employment Newsletter

Considerations for Charities and Not-for-profit Organizations in light of COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives, charities and not-for-profit organizations face unprecedented demands.  In carrying out their purpose and assisting those in vulnerable positions, they must remain nimble and responsive in a situation that is rapidly changing.   This article discusses 4 key considerations in these uncertain times.

Closure of non-essential workplaces

Nova Scotia declared a State of Emergency on March 22, 2020.  As a result, many non-essential workplaces have been ordered to close to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  While some charities and not-for-profit organizations may fall under the provincial list of essential workplaces, many are required to close.  Non-essential workplaces may continue to operate if employees are able to work remotely or through other contingency measures.

Employment matters

Occupational health and safety legislation requires employers to take precautions to provide a safe work environment for employees.  In the circumstances of this global pandemic, that includes taking steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission in the workplace.  Many workplaces have moved to remote-working operations.  If this is not feasible, employers should take steps to maintain social (or physical) distancing which may include rearranging workstations to ensure a minimum physical distance between employees, staggering work hours to minimize contact between employees, and directing that all meetings be conducted virtually.

Governance

As we strive to maintain social (or physical) distancing, many organizations will wonder how to handle meetings, including upcoming annual general meetings.  To determine what procedures are permissible, organizations must first look to their governing legislation.  This may be the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act or provincial legislation such as the Nova Scotia Societies Act or Companies Act.  Look to the organization’s constating document (such as by-laws) to determine which applies.  The organization’s by-laws may also set out requirements for a meeting of directors.  Alternatives to in-person meetings may include virtual meetings, in-person meetings with remote access options, or a hybrid of in-person and virtual.   Whatever method you choose it is incredibly important at this time to communicate with directors and shareholders how the organization is carrying on its obligations and directives.

Finances

The Federal Government has announced a wage subsidy of up to 75% on the first $58,700 of an employee’s salary for qualifying businesses including not-for-profit organizations, charities and certain Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs).  The subsidy is for a period of up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020.  More information relating to eligibility criteria and delivery of the program will be unveiled in days to come

The CRA’s Charities Directorate has extended the filing deadline to December 31, 2020 for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020.  This allows charities more time to complete and submit their T3010 as their resources are deployed to address the effects of COVID-19.

The Charities Directorate has suspended operations until further notice.  This includes the call centre as well as all registration and audit activities.

Conclusion

The situation continues to change rapidly with new information and directives being announced almost daily.  Charities and not-for-profit organizations are reminded to stay informed of and follow government orders and directives.


This newsletter is produced by Wickwire Holm to keep our clients and friends informed of developments in the law and emerging issues. It is intended for general information purposes only. In preparing and circulating this newsletter, Wickwire Holm is not providing legal or other professional advice. Readers are encouraged to consult their professional advisers before taking any action on the basis of information contained in this newsletter. If you have any questions about any issues raised within this newsletter or a related issue, please contact us at wh@wickwireholm.com or 902.429.4111.