Jobs within the mills were mainly determined by the age and gender of the workers. Jobs requiring physical strength, such as the sorting of the raw cotton, warehousing, haulage, stoking of boilers were largely done by men. Much of this work was badly paid and involved working in unpleasant conditions. The dust and fibres that were ever present led to a high incidence of industrial diseases such as tuberculosis and byssinosis. The chemicals used in bleaching and dyeing were highly toxic, and often used in rooms with inadequate ventilation.
With the mechanisation of the processes, workers were employed to carry out specific tasks. Many processes involved routine work such as minding machines. Little skill was required, except the need to be vigilant.
Wages were paid to most adults on the piecework system. Wages thus depended on output rather than standard hourly or daily rates. Children who were employed by the adult operatives to undertake menial tasks, were paid by them from their piecework earnings.
Various Factory Acts controlled the maximum number of hours that children and juveniles could work per day, and also provided for statutory meal breaks and safety regulations. These provisions were later extended to include women.
With the Act of 1844 came the half time system, limiting the hours of under thirteen year olds to six and a half per day. This allowed them to spend three hours per day in school. It fixed the hours of women and young people at twelve per day.
The Ten Hours Act which was passed in 1847 limited the hours that women and children could work to 10 per day. In 1875, their hours were restricted to fifty six and a half per week.
Whilst these Acts were designed to improve the lot of working people and give them more time to spend as a family, they reduced the wage earning potential, and as such met with opposition. Employers resented state intervention and favoured voluntary regulation. They viewed the reduction in hours as an economic threat and only gradually accepted the value of uniform regulation.