Paying Babysitter for Shabbat Work

We’d like to hire a babysitter to watch our kids on a regular basis Shabbat morning, so we can go to synagogue. Is there a problem with arranging her to work on Shabbat and to pay her for it?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The way you describe it would be problematic. A person may not work for pay on Shabbat even if none of the work involved is a type of labor forbidden on Shabbat. Thus, you cannot hire her for Shabbat alone.

There is, however, another possible way to arrange it. If a person is hired to work both during the week and on Shabbat (of course where the Shabbat work does not involve any actual labor), then he can be paid for both times together. This is known as “swallowed wages” – where the Shabbat pay is “swallowed up” within the weekday pay.

This, however, is only effective if there is a binding contract to work both times – such that if either party would back out of the arrangement it would be considered a breach of contract. (In addition, according to some opinions, if one side would back down in the middle, that side would be penalized for the entire week, not only for the amount of days the worker did not work.) If, however, neither party would mind if the other backed out in the middle and they would just calculate the days worked thus far, then the worker is really considered a day laborer, and he could not be paid for the Shabbat days worked.

Thus, if you have a real need to hire the babysitter for set times during the week, you could write a binding contract for all the times that you need her to work, and then you could pay her for all her hours together.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 306:4, Mishna Berurah 306:20, Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata I 28:58.)

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