factory acts

(redirected from British Factory Acts of 1844)

factory acts:

see labor lawlabor law,
legislation dealing with human beings in their capacity as workers or wage earners. The Industrial Revolution, by introducing the machine and factory production, greatly expanded the class of workers dependent on wages as their source of income.
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Factory Acts


laws regulating working conditions in factories and plants in the era of industrial capitalism. The emergence and development of factory acts resulted from the economic and political struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation.

The first such laws were the Factory Acts of 1802 and 1819, which were passed by the Parliament of Great Britain. The acts regulated the working conditions of children and adolescents in the textile industry; for example, children under nine were forbidden to work, and those between the ages of nine and 16 were allowed to work only a 12-hour day and were not permitted to work at night. In 1847 the British Parliament passed a law, effective in 1848, limiting the workday for adolescents and women in the textile industry to ten hours. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, factory acts were gradually extended to sectors of industry other than textile manufacturing. In the mid-19th century, under the influence of the growing working-class movement, factory acts were also adopted in other Western European countries. For example, in 1841 a child and adolescent labor law was passed in France, and in 1869 an industrial statute was adopted in Germany.

In prerevolutionary Russia, factory laws were not enacted until the end of the 19th century, and the adoption of each piece of legislation was preceded by bitter strikes. In 1882 the law On Minors Working in Plants, Factories, and Manufactories was promulgated. It prohibited children under 12 from working; in addition, adolescents from 12 to 15 years of age were not allowed to work more than eight hours a day or to work at night, on Sundays, and on holidays. A provisional law of 1885 prohibited women and adolescents 15 to 17 years of age from working in textile mills at night. In 1886 the following two laws were promulgated: Rules for Hiring Workers in Factories, Plants, and Manufactories and Special Rules for Relations Between Factory Owners and Workers. In 1897 the length of the workday was established by law for the first time and was set at 11½ hours. A detailed analysis of the class content of the factory laws in Russia was provided by V. I. Lenin in Explanation of the Law on Fines Imposed on Factory Workers (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th éd., vol. 2, pp. 15–60) and The New Factory Law (ibid., pp. 263–314).

The factory acts of all capitalist countries generally applied to only some working people and contained numerous stipulations that made it possible for employers to evade the intent of the laws.

In the era of imperialism, the sphere of legislative regulation of the working conditions of hired labor has been broadened, and the system of such legislation has come to be known as labor leg islation. By its very essence, the labor legislation of capitalist countries has a clear antiworker bias.

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