After Sadler left Parliament, the Factory Act of 1833 limited the working day in textile mills to 12 hours for those aged 13 to 17, and 8 hours for those aged 9 to 12. The committee's arduous effort had a disastrous effect on Sadler's health. He died at the age of 44 in March 1834.
The main aim of the act was to improve living standards for mill workers by regulating their hours of employment and providing some safety measures. However, because many mills violated the law by hiring underage workers, it also served as a deterrent to child labor.
The act was not very effective in reducing child labor; however, it did succeed in limiting young people's work days to no more than 14 hours. In addition, there were fewer accidents among this group of workers due to a decline in the amount of physical activity required from them.
Furthermore, the act helped stabilize wages by prohibiting employers from using illegal methods such as "piecework" to determine pay rates. Piecework involved dividing one job into enough pieces to be handled by several workers instead of doing one piece at a time. This method of payment allowed employers to avoid setting uniform wages for all employees while still maintaining productivity levels. The piecework system was especially common among manufacturers of textiles who needed a variety of prices for their products.
The Report of the Select Committee on the Bill for the Regulation of Factories (chaired by Sir Michael Sadler) reported awful factory conditions, excessive hours of work, and cruelty to children. The 1833 Mills and Factories Statute (Althorp's Act) duplicated and expanded on the 1831 act. It is estimated that this statute improved living conditions for workers by making factory regulations mandatory instead of voluntary, by reducing working hours to 56 per week, and by banning child labor under 14 years old.
The next major legislative effort to improve factory conditions was the Factory Acts of 1844. These laws were designed to prevent accidents at work by requiring employers to provide adequate equipment and means of escape, by limiting the hours workers could be employed, and by prohibiting children under 16 years old from being put to work in factories. In addition, the acts provided for the establishment of "industrial schools" where young people who were unable to earn a living could be taught skills that would enable them to find employment when they reached adulthood.
These initial statutes did not go as far as many trade unions and activists wanted, but they did make improvements for the time. They were revised several times after their original passage with the aim of preventing new abuses from arising. For example, the hours of work were limited to 56 per week in England and 36 per week in Scotland through the combined efforts of the British Association for the Protection of Labour and the Trades Union Congress.
The principal impact of the Factory Acts (1844–1847) on labor was that they limited factory working hours to 10 hours per day, which reduced worker injury and weariness. The legislation also required the employment of at least five-year-old children in factories, although this provision was not always enforced.
The main purpose of the Act was to protect workers' health and safety. However, since it also prohibited employers from hiring underage workers and required them to provide proper equipment for work, it can be said that the Act helped improve workers' conditions. In fact, some historians have argued that the Acts were necessary because workers' welfare was not considered when those industries first opened up.
However, the limitation on hours worked was not meant to benefit workers but rather their owners. By restricting employees to only ten hours per day, these men were forced out of the industry. This left room for others to enter the market with lower prices and higher quality products. Thus, despite the fact that the Acts protected workers by preventing them from being exposed to dangerous machinery and chemicals for extended periods of time, they also prevented people from making a living in those industries.