Employment laws are put into place to protect employees from any mistreatment by their employers and are a vital part of a country's efforts to protect its citizens. Most countries have their own version of laws protecting workers, but in general, employment laws address the following concerns: employees being overworked, placed in an unhealthy or dangerous environment, or rendered unable to work without appropriate compensation. In some countries, employment laws also guarantee that workers can't be unfairly discriminated against, and allows foreigners a period of time during which they can legally work in the country. These laws started being put in place shortly after the Industrial Revolution, during which time employees were highly mistreated and lacked legal protection against employers.
Depending on the country, most employees are greatly protected under some form of an employment law. In many countries, laws have been passed to establish standards that employers must follow in providing benefits, such as health insurance, to their employees; this may include additional coverage for health problems that arise due to conditions of the job or workplace. Employment law may also include protection against discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender, religion, disability, or veteran status, and may make provisions for the employment of foreigners.
In Europe, each country is left to devise its own employment protection system, and each country has slightly different laws. France, for example, has a written Labor Code and other enforceable rights that protect employees from harmful situations, while the United Kingdom has no written labor law, but does hold specialist employment tribunals as part of their court system to help solve any employee's concerns. China requires the majority of the workforce to be under contract with employers, which makes it next to impossible for an employer to fire an employee; this form of employment law states that unless an employee has broken a rule or regulation, the contract must be upheld as stated. Also, to help avoid employees working too many hours, China does not usually have salary-paid employees, but instead generally offers only 40 hour work weeks, with paid over-time when necessary.
Born of Necessity
Before the Industrial Revolution, there was little or no protection for employees. Employers were basically able to treat their employees however they wanted, often paying them wages as low as possible while having them work as long as they were physically able. Working conditions were often downright filthy, if not hazardous to boot, and workers were offered no benefits such as health insurance or worker's compensation in the event of an accident on the job. Before the employment law was put in place, children were part of the workforce and were subjected to employment abuse.
As the Industrial Revolution swept America, Europe, and the rest of what is now known as the industrialized world, more and more people left their rural lives to live in cities and work in factories. Working conditions worsened as the number of employees increased, and it became clear that governments would need to step in to protect the rights of the workers. These initial efforts eventually gave way to modern employment law.
Early employment laws were originally put in place to establish fair wages, to limit the number of hours worked in a week, and to prevent children from being exploited. Rules were also established to regulate the cleanliness of the workplace, and employers were required to take precautions to protect their employees and prevent dangerous accidents. These initial efforts are still an important part of employment law, although they have been improved and expanded as needed over the years.