Factory Acts

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A child apprentice in a cotton mill

The Factory Acts were a series of Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to limit the number of hours worked by women and children, first in the textile industry, then later in all industries.

The factory reform movement[1] spurred the passage of laws to limit the hours that could be worked in factories and mills. The first aim of the movement was for a "ten hours bill" to limit to ten hours the working day of children. Richard Oastler was one of the movement's most prominent leaders.

Collective titles[edit]

The Factory and Workshop Acts 1878 to 1895 is the collective title of the Factory and Workshop Act 1878, the Factory and Workshop Act 1883, the Cotton Cloth Factories Act 1889, the Factory and Workshop Act 1891 and the Factory and Workshop Act 1895.[2]

Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802[edit]

The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 (42 Geo III c.73), sometimes known as the Factory Act 1802, placed orders upon Cotton Mill owners with regards to the treatment of apprentices (mostly children) and the cleanliness requirements of the Mill. It was introduced in response to recommendations given by physician, Thomas Percival after an outbreak of Malignant Fever at a Mill owned by Sir Robert Peel. Although the Act was ineffective in its implementation, it paved the way for future Factory acts which would regulate the industry.

Cotton Mills, etc. Act 1819[edit]

The 1819 Cotton Mills and Factories Act (59 Geo. III c66) stated that no children under 9 were to be employed and that children aged 9–16 years were limited to 12 hours' work per day.[3]

Labour in Cotton Mills Act 1831[edit]

An Act to repeal the Laws relating to Apprentices and other young Persons employed in Cotton Factories and in Cotton Mills, and to make further Provisions in lieu thereof (1 & 2 Will. IV c39)

No night work for persons under the age of 21.

Labour of Children, etc., in Factories Act 1833[edit]

The Factory Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV) c103 was an attempt to establish a regular working day in the textile industry. The act had the following provisions:

Factories Act 1844[edit]

The Factories Act 1844 (citation 7 & 8 Vict c. 15) further reduced hours of work for children and applied the many provisions of the Factory Act of 1833 to women. The act applied to the textile industry and included the following provisions:

Factory Act 1847[edit]

After the Whigs gained power in Parliament, the Ten Hour Bill (also known as the Ten Hour Act) was passed, becoming the Factories Act 1847 (citation 10 & 11 Vict c. 29). This law limited the work week in textile mills (and other textile industries except lace and silk production) for women and children under 18 years of age. Each work week contained 63 hours effective 1 July 1847 and was reduced to 58 hours effective 1 May 1848. In effect, this law limited the workday to 10 hours.

This law was successfully passed due to the contributions of the Ten Hours Movement. This campaign was established during the 1830s and was responsible for voicing demands towards limiting the work week in textile mills. The leaders of the movement were Richard Oastler (who led the campaign outside Parliament), as well as John Fielden and Lord Shaftesbury (who led the campaign inside Parliament). Of course, employers found a ten hour limit acceptable as it meant that workers could be run in shifts, keeping the factory open for up to twenty hours a day.

Factory Act 1850[edit]

This Act (citation 13 & 14 Vict c. 54) redefined the workday which had been established under the Factory Acts of 1844 and 1847. No longer could employers decide the hours of work. The workday was changed to correspond with the maximum number of hours that women and children could work. The act included the following provisions.

Hours of work for age 9 to 18 was changed to 10.5 hours night and day.

Factory Act 1856[edit]

This Act (citation 13 & 14 Vict c. 54) redefined the workday which had been established under the Factory Acts of 1844 and 1847. No longer could employers decide the hours of work. The workday was changed to correspond with the maximum number of hours that women and children could work. The act included the following provisions.

Hours of work for age 9 to 18 was changed to 10 hours night and day.

Factory and Workshop Act 1870[edit]

Factory and Workshop Act 1871[edit]

Factory and Workshop Act 1878[edit]

The Factory and Workshop Act 1878 (41 & 42 Vict. c. 16) brought all the previous Acts together in one consolidation.

Factory Act 1891[edit]

The Factory Act 1891 made the requirements for fencing machinery more stringent. Under the heading Conditions of Employment were two considerable additions to previous legislation: the first is the prohibition on employers to employ women within four weeks after confinement (childbirth); the second the raising the minimum age at which a child can be set to work from ten to eleven.

Factory and Workshop Act 1901[edit]

Minimum working age is raised to 12. The act also introduced legislation regarding education of children, meal times, and fire escapes.

Factories Act 1937[edit]

The 1937 Act (1 Edw. 8 & 1 Geo. 6 c.67) consolidated and amended the Factory and Workshop Acts from 1901 to 1929. It was introduced to the House of Commons by the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 29 January 1937 and given Royal Assent on 30 July.[4][5]

Factories Act 1959[edit]

Factories Act 1961[edit]

This Act consolidated the 1937 and 1959 Acts. As of 2008, the 1961 Act is substantially still in force, though workplace health and safety is principally governed by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and regulations made under it.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Factory Movement: topic page
  2. ^ The Short Titles Act 1896, section 2(1) and the second schedule
  3. ^ Early factory legislation. Parliament.uk. Accessed 2 September 2011.
  4. ^ "House of Commons Hansard; vol 319 c1199". Hansard. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 29 January 1937. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  5. ^ Factories Act 1937 (PDF). London: His Majesty's stationery Office. 30 July 1937. ISBN 0-10-549690-1. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 

External links[edit]