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Asking this mainly for my wife, not myself. I'm also affected by it since we live together.

Please note that I'm NOT asking for legal advice. Legally I would know how to proceed, unfortunately, it's a very slow process and my wife doesn't want to change job.

It's a small company with only her and her boss working there. A few months ago she started to receive her payments late, usually, you get paid at the end of the month. She didn't make a big fuss about it since its normal that sometimes you receive your money a few days late. But now she only gets her paycheck when the next month has already started.

This puts us (her and me) in a bad situation since our main expense is rent - which we have to pay in advance every month. Obviously, there are other bills too, but I don't see them as crucial as rent. In the worst case, you have to pay a late fee and get banned from the store, but not paying your flat on time scares me - it's obviously a long way until you get thrown out. But it gives you a bad record and it won't be easy to find a new flat.

When my wife tried to tell him that it's not about her being greedy but her deadlines and bills that she has to pay on time he dismissed her as "it's not that important" and "a few days don't matter".

Not sure why she doesn't get paid on time - they have money to renovate the building, hiring social media experts and buying (and then closing) other stores. At the same time, I'm completely aware that having a business is though, especially in retail. Sometimes the boss mentions that they don't earn enough.

How can my wife explain the need to get paid in time without getting dismissed and without ruining the work-relationship?

Note: I excluded the country-tag on purpose as it feels like otherwise, it would steer into the direction of legal advice. If you feel like your answer is bound to a certain country feel free to mention it.

  • Where are you from? It differs from place to place how visible late payments are to other sellers, and with that how urgent paying bills on time is. – JAD Apr 26 at 8:42
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    I'm more curious where you are from because you and your wife want to keep a good relationship with her boss, and how you interact with bosses changes a lot from culture to culture. I wouldn't worry too much about the visibility of late payments and urgency of paying bills on time, as that's indeed getting closer to legal advice. I advise people to just take it for granted that you need the boss to pay sooner so you can pay your bills on time, and focus on the interpersonal skills needed to explain this need to the boss :) – Tinkeringbell Apr 26 at 8:50
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    I have found that getting paid late is very often a sign of financial difficulties with the employer. Even though the employer is hiring other people, buying stores, etc., it's possible that they aren't paying those other people either. – Simon Woodside Apr 27 at 2:00
  • Off-topic, but just wanted to re-affirm Simon Woodside's point: If he does not pay on time, he either a) does not want to pay, or b) cannot pay. If a), that is in itself a major breach of trust, and if b), the shop is already bankrupt by definition. My advice would be to find a new job ASAP. – sleske May 3 at 8:43
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I think your wife has done all the explaining that she can. If she's told her boss that 'I need my salary, I have a bill to pay tomorrow', there's not much more she can do to make him aware that she needs to be paid on time. The 'tomorrow' is important here though: if she hasn't yet tried explaining using concrete deadlines like that, it might be worth a try first.

So, I'm going to focus on the getting paid on time part, by saying she should stop trying to explain a need to be paid on time, instead, she needs to start asserting that it's her right to be paid on time. Explaining that it's really necessary won't help you. In my experience, if you want to be paid on time you have to assert yourself, and assertiveness doesn't need an explanation:

A form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person's rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one's rights or point of view. (emphasis mine)

I've been through something similar, working in retail for a home decoration/garden shop in The Netherlands teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Eventually, I (and some other girls) often got paid almost a month late, because the boss made it a thing to pay the older employees first. His reasoning there was that these people needed the money more than 'us girls' because they had to pay for houses, cars, groceries. We all lived at home, so to him, we didn't need the money as badly.

At first, my tactic was just to tell him I needed the money, and would he please send it to me. Usually, this was waved away with the same reason as your wife's boss is using: A few days don't matter if you're still living at home. No matter that this was untrue as I had to pay for healthcare, pay my parents a small amount of household money and would love to do fun stuff with the rest, explaining all that didn't change his mind. So I switched to a more assertive approach:

Hey, I noticed my pay wasn't paid out at the usual date. Do you know why it wasn't there and when (how soon) I can expect it?

The first part is a statement, your pay wasn't on time. The second part is most important: make him explain why the pay wasn't on time, and make him promise a time in the near future when you can expect it. This recognizes that there may be some issue on his side, a willingness to overlook that the pay wasn't entirely on time, and at the same time asserts that you should've been paid by now and still want to be paid as soon as possible.

When he crosses the second deadline, you act annoyed, disappointed, and demand that the salary be paid as soon as possible, but still, without getting into an argument about whether you need it or not, you need it, and there's no arguing or explaining that point. Don't be too nice, you don't want to be treated as an easy pushover. You already gave him extra time, he made a promise and didn't keep it. This worked for a good while (a year or two of having payments either on time, a few days late, or at most a little more than a week), and never really seemed to damage any relationship between me and my boss.

Sadly, things got so bad for the shop I worked for that in the end, I had to resort to sending official, legally valid letters (which was easy, there were fill-in-the-blanks examples on the internet) and a constant threat of becoming one of the people that could file for his bankruptcy to get my salary paid out in a reasonable timeframe. (Though even with the letters he was often almost a month late). I ended up quitting there because I found another job, and a year or two later the shop really went bankrupt.

  • This is the right IPS answer... though I feel the interpersonal problem will soon turn into the problem of a) finding a new job and b) extracting back pay from a bankruptcy... – sleske May 3 at 8:44

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