Impact of government acts improving working conditions


ActWhat it said…Impact
Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802This act aimed to give some protection for apprentices who were often orphans and lived and worked in the factories. Apprentices were to be given good accommodation, no more than a 12 hour working day and access to education and religious observance.This act was basically ignored as there was at this time no way to enforce it. It was also criticised as it was only relevant to apprentices. It did not cover “free children” who often worked with their parents and they actually outnumbered the apprentice workers. Also the act only only applied to cotton factories not silk wool or flax factories.
Factory Act 1819No child under the age of nine to work. Children between the ages of nine and 13 years: 48-hour week; must go to school part-timeThis Act applied to cotton factories. Once again there was no formal way to enforce this act as no inspectors were created to investigate factories.
Factory Act 1833No child under the age of nine to work. Children between the ages of nine and 13 years: 48-hour week; must go to school part-time.Inspectors were created to enforce the act but far too few to be effective- only 4 for the whole of the country. Parents and doctors lied about the ages of children. Schooling was avoided and if factories were prosecuted fines were very low.
Factory Act 1878This brought all the previous Acts together - consolidation. Now the Factory Code applied to all trades. No child anywhere under the age of 10 was to be employed. Compulsory education for children up to 10 years old. 10-14 year olds could only be employed for half days. Women were to work no more than 56 hours per week.The total number of inspectors increased from 38 in 1868 to 56 in 1885, but these had to cover the more than 110,000 workplaces registered (in 1881).

By 1914 textile factory workers had seen their hours and wages improve. Young children no longer worked in the factories. Also, the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 established for the first time the principle that persons injured at work should receive limited compensation without having to prove that the employer was at fault.

Conditions however could still be dangerous. Hearing loss was a substantial problem. Also lung problems due to fibres in the air was common. The Factory Acts were the main vehicles for improvement. Also some factories increased the holiday provisions for their workers. Local wake weeks became common with whole factories heading to cheap holiday destinations like Morecambe in Lancashire and Ayr in Scotland.