Working Hours and Pay
Factory owners were very particular about employees arriving on time. If you arrived, say, quarter of an hour late for work, you might be fined half an hours pay or more. Sometimes latecomers were beaten, even if it wasn't their fault. Arriving on time for work was very difficult for some families as they were so poor that they couldn't afford a clock. Also, watches were banned in the factories. This could have been to trick workers out of some of their wages by making them late for work.
An Interview between a Parliamentary Committee and Joseph Hebergram (1832)
What were your hours of labour?
A: From five in the morning till eight at night.
Q: You had fourteen and a half hours of actual labour, at seven years of age?
Q: Did you become very drowsy and sleepy towards the end of the day?
A: Yes; that began about three o'clock; and grew worse and worse, and it came to be very bad towards six and seven.
Q: How long was it before the labour took effect on your health?
A: Half a year.
Q: How did it affect your limbs?
A: When I worked about half a year a weakness fell into my knees and ankles: it continued, and it got worse and worse.
Q: How far did you live from the mill?
A: A good mile.
Q: Was it painful for you to move?
A: Yes, in the morning I could scarcely walk, and my brother and sister used, out of kindness, to take me under each arm, and run with me to the mill, and my legs dragged on the ground; in consequence of the pain I could not walk.
Q: Were you sometimes late?
A: Yes, and if we were five minutes too late, the overlooker would take a strap, and beat us till we were black and blue.
Children worked for 16 hours or more, at a penny an hour or less. Sometimes, however, the masters or managers tricked the workers into working longer hours by changing the times on the factory clocks to their advantage. Because the working hours were so long, workers were often very tired, making accidents more common. The overlookers dealt with this by punishing anybody who looked drowsy.