Factory Acts - Factory Act 1802

Factory Act 1802

The Factories Act 1802 (citation 42 Geo.lll c.73, sometimes also called the "Health and Morals of Apprentices Act") was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which regulated factory conditions, especially in regard to child workers in cotton and woollen mills. It was the culmination of a movement originating in the 18th century, where reformers had tried to push several acts through Parliament to improve the health of the workers and apprentices. The act had the following provisions:

  • Factory owners must obey the law.
  • All factory rooms must be well ventilated and lime-washed twice a year.
  • Children must be supplied with two complete outfits of clothing.
  • Children between the ages of 9 and 13 can work maximum 8 hours.
  • Adolescents between 14 and 18 years old can work maximum 12 hours.
  • Children under 9 years old are not allowed to work but they must be enrolled in the elementary schools that factory owners are required to establish.
  • The work hours of children must begin after 6 a.m., end before 9 p.m., and not exceed 12 hours a day.
  • Children must be instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic for the first four years of work.
  • Male and female children must be housed in different sleeping quarters.
  • Children may not sleep more than two per bed.
  • On Sundays children are to have an hour's instruction in Christianity.
  • Factory owners are also required to tend to any infectious diseases.

Fines of between £2 and £5 could be imposed on factory owners, but the Act established no inspection regime to enforce conditions. The act failed to provide a clear law of the hours one is permitted to work and failed to include supervision to make sure the law was being followed. The law was largely ignored by the factories but paved the way for more Factory Acts to follow. Richard Oastler in 1804 comments on the act:

This act gives little authority to parliament and less restriction on factories. How can factories not resist to break the law?
- probably did not say that in 1804, he was 15...

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