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Bal Talin – Paying Wages On Time – part 1: When to Pay

When to Pay

  • There is a mitzvah to pay a worker on time. Even paying him slightly late is forbidden. ((Tur Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 339.))
  • As soon as the worker has finished working, ((For certain workers, it is only regarded as if they have finished once they clean up, e.g. a painter.)) there is a mitzvah to pay him. This is learnt from the verse, “Pay his wages that day, before the sun sets” (Devarim 24:15). ((Nesiv Hachesed 9:25.)) Therefore, the employer may not spend all of his money if by doing so he will be unable to pay. ((Ahavas Chesed 9:9.))
  • It is correct to pay the worker immediately, as enthusiastic people do mitzvos at the first opportunity. Similarly, it is best to pay the worker personally, and not send the wages with another person. ((However, it is better to send the money with another person than to trouble the worker to come back and pay him personally.))
  • In certain circumstances, ((See point 12 below, and Section Three.)) the employer does not transgress the Torah prohibition of bal talin. However, at times there is a rabbinical prohibition ((In fact, this is a severe type of rabbinical prohibition enacted by the Prophets.)) that is derived from the verse in Mishlei (3:28), “Don’t tell a worker to come back tomorrow, and you have money to pay him”. Certainly if the worker asks to be paid, the employer should pay immediately. ((Shut Rav Pe’alim Choshen Mishpat 4:7. This applies even if he is unable to fulfill a different mitzvah that comes up at that moment. For example, a person arrives to solicit funds for a worthy cause. However, if the employer is very busy and it is difficult for him to pay on time, this issur will not apply (Tosfos Bava Metzia 111a s.v. amar leih, Shulchan Aruch 339:7, see also Nesiv Hachesed 10:6).))
  • If the time of payment passed and the employer did not pay the worker, he does not continually transgress bal talin. Nevertheless, he must pay him immediately, and every moment that he has money and does not pay him, he transgresses the rabbinical prohibition. ((Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 339:8.))
  • A worker who is paid by the hour must be paid by the end of the day. ((A worker who is hired for a year but paid at the end of each month, must be paid by the end of each month.)) This is the meaning of the verse, “until the next day”. If the next day arrives and the worker has not yet been paid, the employer transgresses bal talin.
  • In this respect, the “day” is split into two parts, the daylight hours and the nighttime hours.
    • (a) The nighttime hours begin at nightfall and finish at sunrise. Therefore, if a worker finishes working after dark, the employer must pay him before sunrise. ((Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 339:3.)) If the worker finishes working as the night is drawing to a close, i.e. at sunrise, the employer has an extension and transgresses bal talin only if he does not pay by sunset.
    • (b) The daylight hours begin at sunrise and finish between sunset and nightfall. Therefore, if a worker finishes working during the afternoon, the employer must pay him before sunset. However, if he finishes after sunset but before nightfall, he must be paid before nightfall. ((Bava Metzia 110b, Ahavas Chesed 9:1.))
  • If the employer has only some of the money he owes the worker, he must pay what he has. From that point on, he does not transgress bal talin. ((Ahavas Chesed 9:10.)) If he has all the money but decides not to pay the worker all his wages, he transgresses bal talin on the amount he does not give him. ((Ibid, Erech Shay 339.))
  • One may pay a worker before davening shacharis. ((See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 89, Mishna Brura 36.)) It is said about the Arizal, that he was extremely particular to pay his workers at the end of the day before davening mincha, even though he ended up davening close to sunset and had to daven quickly. ((R’ Chaim Vital in Shaar Hamitzvos Parshas Ki Teitzei.))
  • One must pay a worker on time, even if by doing so he will be unable to fulfill a different mitzvah d’oraisa. ((Bi’ur Halacha 242 s.v. le’chabeid, see also Pischei Choshen 9 note 14.))
  • If the workers finish on erev Shabbos, he must pay them, even if by doing so he will not have enough money to buy nice foods to fulfill the mitzvah of oneg shabbos. ((Bi’ur Halacha ibid.))

Usually Paid Later

  • There is no prohibition of bal talin for a worker who is normally only paid at a later time, ((The issur of bal talin only applies when the wages are not paid that day. If the understanding or agreement is that the wages are only paid later, there is no issur of bal talin.)) e.g. when he invoices his employer, or on the tenth of the following month. ((Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 339:9.)) Therefore, an employer will not usually transgress bal talin with most salaried employees today, since they are usually paid on a fixed day of the month. If the accepted time to pay passes, the employer transgresses an issur derabbanon. ((See above point 4.))

Paying a Child

  • The issur of bal talin applies even if the worker is a child. ((Shut Harashba 3:99, Ahavas Chesed 9:5.)) Therefore, if a person promises to give something to a child as a reward for a certain job, he transgresses bal talin if he does not give him on time. For example, a neighbor promises a child a candy if he clears up the yard. He transgresses bal talin if he does not pay him on time. ((According to some opinions, there is an issur bal talin even if the wages are less than a peruta. In truth, a candy is worth more than a peruta, whose value today is approx. one cent.))
  • The issur bal talin applies even if the child does not ask to be paid, since he is embarrassed to ask. ((Mishpat Shlomo 2:29, Mishpetei Torah 1:41.)) However, if one hires a babysitter and she knows that the parents will return after she goes home, there is no issur of bal talin. ((Mishpat Shlomo ibid.)) However, the parents should pay the next day.
  • In all likelihood, a father will not transgress bal talin if he does not pay his child on time, since anyway this income belongs to the father. ((This refers to a child who is supported by his father.))

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