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History of Working Time (Hours of Labour) in United Kingdom

History of Working Time in the United Kingdom

The 8-hour day was established in the mining of coal, stratified ironstone, shale and fireclay by the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1908, and the amending Act of 1919 further reduced the daily hours of underground workers, with certain exceptions, to seven. Article 1 of the Act provided for a future reduction in certain eventualities to six hours daily. Other legislative restrictions of hours are to be found in the Factory and Workshop Consolidation Act of 1901, the Shops Act of 1912, and the Employment and Closing Order Act of the same year. A bill was introduced in Aug. 1919 for the establishment of the 8-hour day in industry, and clauses were proposed to be added extending its scope to cover also maritime employment and agriculture, but it went no further in 1921.

In the United Kingdom legislation has played a comparatively unimportant part in the restriction of hours except in the cases of women and children. Before the war a large number of collective agreements had been made, and after the war these were widely extended. The spheres now (1921) covered by agreements reducing the working week to 48 hours or less are best indicated by an enumeration of the cases in which a longer week is still worked.

In agriculture the normal weekly hours are 48 in winter and 50 in summer. These figures, however, do not in all probability indicate the number of hours actually worked. They are fixed under the Corn Production Act, and their principal value from the workers’ point of view lies in the fact that hours worked in excess of 48 or 50 are paid for at overtime rates.

In constructional engineering an agreement has fixed the summer week at 49½ hours, the winter week at 44 (this arrangement does not infringe the rule of an average 48-hour week).

In the linen industry of North Ireland workers in the bleaching and dyeing branches work, by agreement, 49½ hours per week.

A 50-hour week is the rule in one or two smaller industries, such as the manufacture of picture-frame moulding, and type-founding. In the latter case, the workers agreed to work two hours per week (in addition to the normal 48) without pay, in return for which they enjoy an annual holiday on full pay.

In the rest of British industry the rule is the 48-hour week or less. On the railways the normal weekly limit is, by an agreement of Feb. 1 1919, fixed at 48 hours (47 hours in the railway workshops). The daily hours, however, may exceed eight, provided that the weekly total does not exceed 48. The 44-hour week is worked in the building industry generally, in some quarrying, as at Aberdeen, in the manufacture of thread (though not universally), in glove-making (women) and tie-making, by dock workers (except at Belfast where the hours are 46), in the manufacture of envelopes, office and other furniture (again not universally), in bakeries in Scotland, in the textile warehouses of London and the wholesale warehouses of Manchester, and in most concerns in the cocoa and chocolate industry. Apart from a few very exceptional cases (e.g. glass-blowing, where the hours are from 35 to 37 per week) and the kaolin quarries of Cornwall and Devon (42 hours per week), practically every other British industry of importance enough to be organized has a weekly limit lying between 44 and 48 hours.

History of Working Time in other Countries

Generally.- In the World
In the United States.- History of Working Time in the United States

See Also

History of Industrial Councils
History of Labor Legislation
History of the International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization conventions list
U.S. Labor law and movement history
History of Trade Unions
Labor law
Geneva Convention (III)
Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment
Convention Concerning Forced Labor

Further Reading

  • Deirdre McCann (2005), Working Time Laws: A global perspective, ILO
  • Madeleine Bunting (2004), Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives, HarperCollins
  • John de Graaf (2003), Take Back Your Time, Berrett-Koehler
  • Eugene J. McCarthy and William McGaughey (1989), “Nonfinancial Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work”, Praeger
  • William McGaughey (1981), “A Shorter Workweek in the 1980s”, Thistlerose
  • Heejung Chung, Marcel Kerkhofs and Peter Ester “Working Time Flexibility in European Companies”, European Foundation.
  • Colette Fagan, Ariane Hegewisch and Jane Pillinger “Out of Time: why Britain needs a new approach to working time flexibility”, TUC
  • Ute Klammer, Ton Wilthagen, Heejung Chung, Anke Thiel (2008) “Take it or leave it: flexible working-time arrangements and the synchronization of business cycle and life cycle” (as part of the European Foundation project “Flexibility and Security over the lifecourse”)
  • Thirsk, Joan (1967) (editor) The agrarian history of England and Wales vol. IV

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  • Article Name: History of Working Time
  • Author: International
  • Description: History of Working Time (Hours of Labour) History of Working Time in the United Kingdom The 8-hour day was established in [...]

This entry was last updated: April 11, 2013

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