The Working Week

There were essentially four groups of employees: Firstly, those who worked away from Loughborough installing the firm’s products on the customer’s premises. In the early days, there were known simply as outdoor workers. Secondly, those who worked “on the shop floor”, at the firm’s works, either in the joinery shops, engineering shops or foundry, etc. and known as indoor workers. Thirdly, the office staff. Fourthly, the Directors. There was an amount of flexibility between indoor and outdoor working; with some trades, such as joiners, lending itself to such working practices, whilst at the other extreme, it was unlikely that a foundry worker would spend much time, if any, out on a customer’s site.

During the 1880s, the standard week for indoor works and office staff ran from Saturday to Friday, although for outdoor workers, it appears to have run from Friday to Thursday. Presumably outdoor workers swapped to a Saturday to Friday week when working back in the factory.

During the 1930s, the firm’s working week began on a Thursday and all those who worked on site, except for senior management, had to clock-in and -out[1]. There was a single machine, positioned in the time office located at the front of the canteen block, adjacent to the site entrance. The firm wasn’t large enough to run more than a day shift, although because the furnace required preparing, some workers started as early as 05:30 or 6:00. However, for most workers the working day began at 07:55. Following lunch, work resumed at 13:30 and the day normal finish time was 17:30. Those who started early were allowed 30 minutes for breakfast (presumably in the firm’s canteen) between 07:25 and 07:55, but were required to clock-out and –in again. Those who started early normally left at 16:00. Interestingly they did not record overtime, but left it to the foreman or the men themselves to record the time separately. Overtime was generally only worked to complete a special job; if so, they would miss their afternoon tea-break and finish about 18:30. If they needed to work longer, then they would take their tea-break between 17:30 and 18:00, finishing work at around 20:00.

When working away at a customer’s site, all time recording was undertaken by the individual himself. There was no set working day, with men often working longer hours than their factory counterparts, typically recording ten or eleven and on occasions even twelve hour six day weeks. The process of recording these times, in use by the late 1880s, was straight forward, although obviously open to abuse. The individual simply completed a pre-printed form, indicating the number of hours worked, excluding travelling, per day (excluding Sunday’s) and a description of any additional work (outside of the contract) that they have undertaken. On the reverse, the form was divided into three areas; one for the acknowledgement (amount and signature) of any cash received the previous week; the second for any money required for the following week to cover any travelling, accommodation, meals or other expenses; the third for listing any expenses that they may have incurred (together with receipts). These were then posted back to Loughborough at the beginning of the following working week, if they were still away.

The time sheets were still in use well in the 1950s, if not later, with the front of the form remaining unchanged. When in 1920 or 21, the firm changed the start of the working week from a Friday to a Thursday, the colour of the time sheets was changed from blue to red. The reverse of the form changed several times over the period. Quite early on, the reverse was amended to request information requesting an update as to when the men thought they might finish. Also, small changes were made to the wording and position of the other information required i.e. expenses and any cash required.

Whilst working away, travel and accommodation was paid for by the firm. They often stayed with local families or estate workers and where possible they were provided with travel warrants. Having finished one job, they could move onto another immediately, particularly if it was relatively close. However, at least upto the beginning of World War Two, the men were not officially allowed to return home every weekend, or at least the firm would not pay the travel expenses. The firm’s view was that for a single man working “out of town”, he was only permitted to return home at the end of the job; if married, they were allowed home every six weeks[2].


References:

  1. Private Records.
  2. Ibid.