Practical Halacha

Paying Workers
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Monday 16th December 2013

On that day you shall pay his hire; the sun shall not set upon him... (Devarim 25:15).

The Torah commands that hired labourers must be paid on the same day that they complete their work (known as lo talin – lit. do not leave over). According to the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law, w. 1563), if the work of the employee is completed in the daytime, payment must be made by the employer by sunset that day. Similarly, if the work is completed at night, payment must be made before sunrise. The same law also applies to rental fees due at the end of the rental period.
Exceptions to this law include a case where the employee agrees to defer payment before undertaking the job. Similarly, employees who are hired on a frequent basis could be paid monthly. Those hired occasionally would require immediate payment, as the employee’s expectation is to be paid without delay. In the case of a babysitter, unless they agree to be paid at a later date, it is incumbent on the parent or guardian to pay before the babysitter leaves.
An employer must also pay their employee in a way that is both legal and accessible. It is not permitted to substitute other items for payment as compensation.
Rabbi Yaakov Yeshaya Blau (d. 2013) addresses the question of whether it is permissible to pay an employee with a cheque, rather than cash, at a time when the banks are shut. This is especially pertinent when paying babysitters, as most babysitting is done at night. Given that the money cannot be transferred into the babysitter’s account until the banks open in the morning, does this constitute an inevitable act of lo talin?
Rabbi Blau answers that while it is not ideal, provided the cheque is not postdated and the babysitter agrees, it acts as a pikadon – collateral. This essentially constitutes payment, even though the money is not accessible immediately.
This law is one of many given to protect workers’ rights and make employers responsible for treating casual hired labourers properly.
By Rabbi Moshe Freedman, New West End Synagogue