Q: We returned from a wedding at 11:00 PM and owe the babysitter, who lives two blocks away, $30. If we don’t have the proper amount of cash, may we pay her later in the week?
A: Since the job finished during the night, payment is due then. Thus, there is a mitzvah to pay the babysitter her wages that night and a prohibition to withhold payment to the next day against her will. (Choshen Mishpat 339:4)
However, one only violates the prohibition if the employee asks for her wages. Therefore, if the babysitter is fully willing to receive payment afterwards, there is no violation. (Nonetheless, if you do pay that night you fulfill a mitzvah.) You should be careful, though, not to delay payment unnecessarily the following days, but to pay as soon as possible. (C.M. 339:8-10)
If the babysitter wants payment that night, but doesn’t ask out of embarrassment or is unable to ask for some other reason, the Chofetz Chaim maintains that you may not delay payment. (Ahavas Chesed, ch. 9 nt. 29,32)
Furthermore, although a person does not violate if he does not have money available, if the babysitter wants payment that night and you are able to withdraw money from an ATM, you are required to do so, even if inconvenient. If you have only a large $50 bill, you are required to exchange it or give her the large bill and let her give you change when she can. [Alternatively, you can write her a check, and, if she wants, let her return it when you have cash.]
In any case, it is a wise practice to prepare ahead of time and make sure that you have the proper amount of money ready in order to pay promptly.
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
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