I'm working as the lead and currently (since everyone else was laid off for money reasons) sole developer of a start-up, and have been there since its beginning a couple of years ago.
A self-employed friend of mine also does work for the company every now and then, but stopped completely—temporarily—as he hasn't been paid since last summer for his work.
For the past couple of months pay has been a couple of days late because of money problems, but this month (after being warned that it would be a couple of days late) I still haven't been paid over two weeks later. I'm working abroad right now so emailed my boss, and he explained that he's waiting for some money to come in and he'll pay me ASAP—the same thing he's told my colleague for months.
I trust the guy, and I know he'll pay me when he can, but the thing is my colleague hasn't been paid for months, and unlike him I don't have any savings, though I'll be returning to university after the summer anyway to finish the last year of my degree, and was due to start working less hours as I used to for the same company.
What I'm here to ask is, is it okay to just stop working until I'm paid? The company depends entirely on me, there's a lot of work to do and things would come to a standstill if I stop working, so I don't really want to do it. But I feel very uncomfortable working without having been paid, especially that it's now closer to the next paycheck (and rent coming out of my account!) than the previous.
How should I word the email when I explain that I won't work for free? Should I give him notice (a few days, or more?) or just stop working immediately? I've already made it clear I'm unhappy about the situation, but just got excuses.
If I didn't have so much invested in this company (emotionally) I would simply quit, but doing this isn't as easy as just leaving.