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Bal Talin – Paying Wages On Time – part 2: The Employers Responsibility

The Employer’s Responsibility

  • It is preferable for the employer to make a condition with workers that if he is late in paying, he does not transgress the issur of bal talin. ((Sefer Chassidim 1067 brought by the Shach 339:20. See also Graz (she’elah vesechirus 18) and Pischei Teshuva 6.)) However, even if the worker accepts this condition, the employer should pay immediately if the worker asks to be paid. ((Ibid.)) The Chafetz Chaim writes that he should say the following, “I am employing you on the condition that you allow me to pay you a few days late”. ((Shach 339:5, Ahavas Chesed 10:24. It is questionable if the condition “I will not transgress bal talin if I do not pay you on time” is effective. On one hand, there is such a transgression if he does not pay on time, but on the other hand, the worker could forfeit his right to receive payment immediately.))
  • The employer does not transgress bal talin if the worker does not ask ((If he sends a message that he wants to be paid, the employer will transgress bal talin (Haghos R’ Akiva Eiger, Aruch Hashulchan 12. Shut Hilchos Katanos 2:31 disagrees, but see Pischei Choshen 9:35).)) to be paid. ((Bava Metzia 111, Toras Cohanim Kedoshim, Shulchan Aruch 339:10. This is based on a nuance in the text, “Do not keep the wages of a worker with you”, that the wages are being withheld by the employer. If the worker has not asked to be paid, he is also a reason for the delay of the wages (Sema 19).)) If the worker approaches the employer to ask for payment but is embarrassed and does not ask, the employer transgresses bal talin. According to some opinions, even if the worker does not ask to be paid, the employer has to pay nonetheless, to avoid the issur derabannan. ((Shaar Hamishpat 20 in the name of the Zohar, brought in Pischei Teshuva 7 and Ahavas Chesed 11.))
  • The employer does not transgress bal talin if he does not have money when he is asked to pay. ((Ahavas Chesed 9:29.)) If he receives money before the deadline of bal talin passes, he must inform the worker. If he is unable to contact him or if the worker is unable to make his way back to the employer, the employer must make every effort to bring the payment to the worker. ((Ahavas Chesed ibid. Another possibility is that the employer can pay the money into the worker’s bank account.))
  • If the employer has money in a bank, deposited in a gemach, or lent out, he must access it in order to pay the worker on time. ((Ahavas Chesed 7.))
  • According to many opinions, if the employer has an item he wishes to sell, he must make every effort to sell it as soon as possible in order to be able to pay the worker on time. ((Ahavas Chesed quoting the Ritva and Sefer Hachinuch. However, it is implicit in the words of the Rosh, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch that there is no such requirement. This is explicit in the Rav Hamagid 11:4, who the Graz (15) agrees to. However, R’ Akiva Eiger comments that the simple understanding of beraisa is like the opinion of the Sefer Hachinuch.))
  • According to some opinions, the employer should borrow money to be able to pay, especially if the worker is poor. ((Ahavas Chesed ibid note 21.)) According to other opinions, borrowing money is beyond the letter of the law. ((Graz 18 quoting the Arizal, brought in Pischei Choshen ibid note 8 and Aruch Hashulchan 14))
  • The employer does not have to incur a large loss in order to pay a worker, ((Sefer Hachinuch mitzvah 588, quoted by Haghos R’ Akiva Eiger.)) but he should be prepared to incur a small one. ((Ahavas Chesed note 21.)) Therefore, if he has foreign currency, he should change it. If he has short-term investments and will lose previously earned interest if he draws them early, it will depend on the extent of his loss. ((Heard from R’ Naftali Nussbaum and R’ Yehuda Silman.)) Similarly, if he will only make a small loss by selling stocks and bonds at a slightly lower price that he paid for them, he should do so. ((Heard from the aforementioned Rabbonim and R’ Shlomo Zafrani.)) If he chooses not to, he should borrow money to pay the workers.
  • Although he does not transgress bal talin if he does not have money to pay a worker, he may not hire a worker if he knows he will not have money to pay them when the time comes. ((If the worker knows he will not be paid on time but agrees to work anyway, the employer may hire him.)) Based on this, the Chafetz Chaim writes that if a person is going on a trip, he should leave money so that a worker can be paid on time. ((Ahavas Chesed 10:12, Sefer Hachinuch mitzvah 588.))

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