Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Alan Criminality at Work. Bogg, Jennifer Collins, Mark Freedland, and Jonathan Herring, eds. Oxford University Press, 2020


master and servant laws; Factory Acts; United Kingdom; Ontario; Canada; labour law; criminal sanctions; regulatory offences; enforcement


This chapter compares the historical development and use of criminal law at work in the United Kingdom and in Ontario, Canada. Specifically, it considers the use of the criminal law both in the master and servant regime as an instrument for disciplining the workforce and in factory legislation for protecting workers from unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, including exceedingly long hours work. Master and servant legislation that criminalized servant breaches of contract originated in the United Kingdom where it was widely used in the nineteenth century to discipline industrial workers. These laws were partially replicated in Ontario, where it had shallower roots and was used less aggressively. At the same time as the use of criminal law to enforce master and servant law was contested, legislatures in the United Kingdom and Ontario enacted protective factory acts limiting the length of the working day. However, these factory acts did not treat employer violations crimes; instead, they were treated as lesser ‘regulatory’ offences for which employers were rarely prosecuted.

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