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What the level 4 lockdown means for charities and incorporated societies

Many charities are deemed to be essential businesses and are continuing to operate as community needs become more pressing to support vulnerable individuals and families. Most charities are reliant on their fantastic volunteers, many of whom are in the over 65 age bracket and are most at risk of getting COVID-19.

Even if your charity is considered an essential service, if your people can work from home, they must do so. If your people need to come in to work, you must ensure all appropriate measures are taken to minimise the transmission of COVID-19

Charities that are offering non-essential services can continue to operate with their people working from home. If this is not possible, these charities and incorporated societies must close their operations (along with all other NZ businesses).


What you can do to encourage good will from home

New Zealanders are known for their generous spirit, through providing immeasurable acts of kindness, ongoing generosity with regards to making donations and most importantly their tremendous response in times of crisis. So, if your organisation is in lockdown, make sure you utilise this charitable spirit. Here are some suggestions:

  • Communicate with your audience via social media, email or phone calls to let them know how they can help.
  • Keep your advertising going if possible, it’s now more important than ever to get your messages out there.
  • Update your messages so that they relate to the current situation.
  • Be personable: it’s easy to misinterpret people’s tone of voice when unable to speak with them face-to-face.
  • If you’re low on work, connect with other charities and see if you can help organisations that are fully functioning online during this time. A great example are charities such as Support Crews, which has been set up as a free online support platform that co-ordinates meals and support for people in need.
  • It’s often the small things that make a big difference so keep putting your bears in the window. “It seems the ‘bears in the window’ movement is gathering momentum as communities around the country embrace a simple idea that puts smiles on the faces of children and adults alike.” Source herald Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland woman's gesture of hope 29 Mar
  • Make use of our other helpful articles related to COVID-19.


Charities Services update

Many of you will have received the update from Charities Services on 25th March which provided the following information for Registered Charities on the impact of COVID-19:

  • Charities Services staff are working from home and remain contactable. If you have questions, please email info@charities.govt.nz.
  • Charities Service will not have access to any post that has been sent, so please contact them via email. This will mean that Annual Returns, cheques and responses to questions that have been posted will have to wait until they return to the office.
  • Registered Charities have six months after the end of their financial year to submit Annual Returns and financial statements/performance reports. Charities Services will not be sending their regular reminder emails about Annual Returns.
  • Charities that are not able to file their Annual Returns on time can ask for an extension by emailing info@charities.govt.nz. Charities Services will not be taking action on any late returns during the lockdown period.
  • They recommend looking at ways to hold your Annual General Meeting remotely if possible whilst we are in this lock down period.


The government economic package

The government economic package to support those impacted by COVID-19 extends to registered charities and incorporated societies. If you have employees, you may qualify for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy. To qualify your charity or incorporated society:

  • needs to be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • employees must be legally working in New Zealand
  • must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19
  • must have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • must retain the employees named in your application for the period of the subsidy.

The subsidy amounts available:

The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of $585.80 per week for people working 20 hours or more per week (full-time rate). More commonly for charities, where you have employees working less than the 20 hours per week (part-time rate) there is a $350.00 per week subsidy available to be paid as a lump sum, covering 12 weeks per employee.

If your employees work variable hours, you can use an average to work out what rate to apply for. Use the average hours worked each week over the last 12 months, or over the period of time they have been employed (if it's less than 12 months). If the average hours are 20 or more, apply for the full-time rate or if the average hours are less than 20, the part-time rate.


To apply, or for more information, please visit the Work and Income website.

You'll be asked to declare you meet the criteria and agree to the obligations for use of the subsidy, provide the required information in the form and confirm that your organisation has the relevant employees working for you.


Paying your staff

If you are receiving the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy, you must try your hardest to pay the employee named in your application at least 80% of their usual wages. If that isn’t possible, you need to pay at least the subsidy rate (i.e. full-time or part-time).

If your employee's usual wages are less than the subsidy, you must pay them their usual wages. Any difference should be used for the wages of other affected staff - the wage subsidy is designed to keep your employees connected to you. 

Please visit Employment NZ for information about employment law or get in touch with Kearin Pollard, one of our specialist Baker Tilly HR Advisors at kearin.pollard@bakertillysr.nz.

DISCLAIMER: Our team is dedicated to helping you continue with business as usual, as much as you can. Information on government help is changing constantly and within hours of articles being added, the specifics may be out of date or only partially accurate. While we endeavour to keep this website accurate and current, our top priority is providing our clients with dedicated and relevant personal advice. If you need specific and up-to-date information, please seek help from your usual advisor directly.

No liability is assumed by Baker Tilly Staples Rodway for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly upon any article within this website. It is recommended that you consult your advisor before acting on this information.

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