By the Bais Hora'ah
I gave my iron to an appliance repairman for a minor repair. When he was finished he called me to pick up the iron and pay, since he needed the money. I believed that I was Biblically obligated to pay him that day in order to avoid violating the prohibition of bal talin (paying a worker beyond the day he completes his employment) so I sent my son with money to pay him for his services.
Q: May I assume that my son paid the repairman or must I contact him to confirm that he received the money?
A: Regarding the prohibition of bal talin there is no difference between a salaried employee (poel) or an independent contractor (kablan) and one must pay him before the end of the period in which the employment was completed if the employee asks for payment (C.M. 339:6). This means that if the employee finished his job during the day and the employer has the funds to pay him, the employee must be paid before sunset. If the job was completed at night, e.g., a babysitter, the employer has until the end of the night to pay the employee (C.M. 339:3, 10).
The Pri Megadim (Mattan Secharo shel Mitzvos, Chakirah 4) relates that he once hired an employee and sent an agent to pay the employee. He subsequently wondered whether an employer who sent an agent to pay his employee may rely on the presumption (chazakah) that the agent carried out his assignment. One part of the inquiry is that when it comes to Biblical matters the rule is that we do not rely on the presumption that an agent carried out his task. Therefore, when a farmer instructs an agent to separate terumah, the farmer may not eat his produce under the assumption that the agent carried out his assignment (Y.D. 331:34; see also Ahavas Chessed 1:10, Nesiv Hachessed 25).
Secondly, although one witness is reliable regarding matters that relate to prohibitions (eid echad ne’eman b’issurim), perhaps when the matter is easily confirmed one must do so rather than rely on a presumption that the agent carried out his assignment.
On the other hand, there are authorities who maintain that even regarding Biblical matters, when not carrying out the assignment will be detrimental to the principal and the principal will likely assume that the assignment was completed, we do rely upon the presumption that the agent completed his assignment (Y.D. ibid. and Mishnah Berurah 409:50). This being so, the employer should at least inform the agent that the money must reach the employee so that he does not violate the prohibition of bal talin. However, as mentioned and due to the ease of communication, verifying that payment was received is commendable.
In your case, however, the prohibition of bal talin does not apply. The obligation to pay an independent contractor who was hired to repair something begins from the moment that one takes the article back from the contractor, but as long as he retains possession of it, the prohibition of bal talin does not apply (C.M. 339:6). The reason is that since the contractor is in possession of the article, which he may hold as collateral for his service, it is not considered as though he is owed money because he already has an object worth that amount that he could keep (Sma 339:10; see also Ketzos 72:23).