A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
LO SALIN - TIMELY PAYMENT
QUESTION: Must a baby-sitter be paid immediately upon completion of the job
or can the payment be delayed?
DISCUSSION: In the verse quoted above, the Torah commands that a laborer who
completes his work must be paid "on that day." This means that a worker who
finishes his job during the daytime must be paid by sunset of that day. If
the worker has not been paid in full by sunset, his employer has
transgressed a Biblical prohibition(1). Similarly, a worker who completes
his job during the night must be paid in full before daybreak. If the worker
is hired for a full day [or night] or for a full week or month, he must be
paid by the morning [or evening] after his term of employment is over.
These laws apply also to rental fees. When the rental period is over,
payment must be made by the end of that day [or night](2). There is a
dispute among the Rishonim over whether these laws apply to property rentals
as well(3). The Chafetz Chayim(4) rules that one who is late with his house
rent has transgressed this prohibition.
Payment for work contracted by the job is also included in this
commandment. Thus, when an item is taken in for repair or cleaning, etc., or
if a plumber or an electrician comes into one's home for a specific job,
payment must be made "on the day" that the item is picked up(5) or the job
completed(6). However, when contracting for a job in which the raw materials
belong to the worker [as in the case of a builder], these laws do not apply.
In this case, we view the relationship between them as one of a buyer and a
seller, not as one of an employee and his employer(7).
An employer cannot force his worker to accept compensation other than
cash8. Payment, therefore, must be in cash, or with a check that can be
easily and quickly cashed(9).
Payment must be made on time to a minor as well(10). Thus, when a
baby-sitter is hired, she must be paid before the day [or night] is over.
There are, however, several exceptions to the above rules. Thus:
This prohibition applies only if the worker asks, either himself or through
a messenger(11), to be paid. If the worker does not mind being paid at a
later date, it is permissible to defer payment12. If, however, the worker
would like to get paid but is too shy to ask outright, payment must be made
If the common practice in a given locality is to pay a laborer's wages at
the end of the month or at a time when accounts are calculated, then the
payment does not have to be made until then(14).
It follows, therefore, that if a baby-sitter is hired on a one-time basis,
she must be paid "on that day." This is because she expects to be paid
immediately upon completion of her job. If, however, the baby-sitter is
hired on a steady basis, then there is no deadline for the time of payment
since many people do not pay their regular baby-sitter after each
One is allowed to make a pre-condition with his worker that he will not be
paid on time(16). This condition must be made before the worker agrees to do
the job. Thus, even a one-time baby-sitter may be paid at a later time if
she was told of this condition before she agreed to take the job.
An employer who has no money(17) to pay his employee does not transgress
this prohibition(18). If he has no money but is able to borrow, he must do
so. Not having the exact change on hand is no excuse to delay payment(19).
The prohibition of delaying payment does not apply to a yeshiva or other
1 Depending on the circumstances, there could be up to 6 different
commandments that are transgressed when payment is not made on time; see
C.M. 339:2 and Sma 4.
2 C.M. 339:1.
3 Pischei Teshuvah 339:1.
4 Ahavas Chesed 9:5. This is also the ruling of the Ketzos ha-Choshen 339:1.
See Avnei Yashfe 2:118 who quotes Harav S.Y. Elyashiv as ruling that the
prohibition applies only to rent which is due for past rental, not for rent
which is paid ahead of time (pre-payment).
5 If the item is not being picked up, even though the repairman notified the
owner that it is ready, the owner does not have to pick up the item and the
payment rules do not apply; Beiur Halachah O.C. 242.
8 Shach C.M. 336:4. See also Pischei Teshuvah C.M. 336:1.
9 Harav M. Feinstein (written responsum published in Mili de-Nizakin, pg.
122) in a locale where it is customary to pay by check. See Pischei Choshen
(Hilchos Sechirus 9 note 36) who questions a payment by check if it is made
after the bank's closing hours.
10 Ahavas Chesed 9:5. See Nesiv ha-Chesed 16 who takes to task those who
promise compensation to a minor and then do not pay him on time.