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A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, a merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives the right to leave for child care, and the right to request flexible working patterns.But people were also attempting to organise more formally.Initially, trade unions were suppressed, particularly following the French Revolution of 1789 under the Combination Act 1799.As its height, the businesses and corporations of Britain's industrial revolution organised half the world's production across a third of the globe's surface and a quarter of its population.Joint Stock Companies, building railways, canals and factories, manufacturing household goods, connecting telegraphs, distributing coal, formed the backbone of the laissez faire model of commerce.In feudal England, the first significant labour laws followed the Black Death.
Given the shortage of workers and consequent price rises the Ordinance of Labourers 1349 and the Statute of Labourers 1351 attempted to suppress sources of wage inflation by banning workers organisation, creating offences for any able-bodied person that did not work, and fixing wages at pre-plague levels.
The purpose of these rights is to ensure people have dignified living standards, whether or not they have the relative bargaining power to get good terms and conditions in their contract."It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.
The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen.
Industrialisation also meant greater urbanisation, and inevitably miserable conditions in the factories.
The Factory Acts dating from 1803 required minimum standards on hours and conditions of working children.
In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate." Labour law in its modern form is primarily a creation of the last three decades of the 20th century.