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The Victorian Employment Relationship

From 'The Dictionary of Daily Wants' - 1858-1859

Please note that the original version is not divided into paragraphs, which would have made it difficult to read online.

MASTER AND SERVANT. - The mode of hiring is by what is commonly called a month's warning or a month's wages. But this arrangement varies considerably, and is regulated for the most part according to the customs of the particular branch of service or employment. A grocer or linendraper in the metropolis, may, by the custom of the trade, discharge an assistant without any notice. Here the bargain in the outset is for so much salary per year. An usher engaged in much the same way, is entitled to a quarter's notice. A parliamentary reporter is engaged for the session of Parliament. An editor is sometimes dismissed with a month's notice, but mostly three months' notice from any day. In every trade or calling, in the absence of any stipulation upon the point, the Courts hold that the customary notice is understood by master and servant. If a master would require, or has required a monthly notice from his clerk, the clerk is entitled to the same from his master. Where a mercantile house has fifty or sixty assistants, the custom of the particular house, and not of the trade, will prevail.

If a servant be disabled in his master's service, by an injury received through another's default, the master may recover damage for loss of service. If a domestic servant falls ill, a master is not bound to provide medical attendance and medicines, yet if he calls in his own medical attendant, and pays for such attendance, he cannot set off the amount against the servant's claim for wages, unless there was a special agreement between them that he should do so. If a servant hired by the year, meets, with an accident or is disabled while employed in his master's business, he cannot be lawfully dismissed, nor can big wages be abated.

If a servant wilfully disobeys any lawful order of his master, he is liable to be discharged immediately, without either notice or compensation. A master may not only maintain an action against any one who entices away his servant, but also against the servant; and if without enticement, a servant leaves his master without just cause, an action will lie against another who retains him with a.knowledge of such departure. In cases where a person hires a servant already engaged to another, although the person hiring is not aware of any existing engagement, the original master may claim the services of his servant, and the second hiring is null and void.

A master is entitled to correct his servant in a reasonable manner, to enforce fidelity and obedience to all his lawful commands. Acts of the servant are, in many instances, deemed acts of the master; and he is responsible for them where they are pursuant to his authority. If a servant commit an act of trespass, by command or encouragement of his master, the master may be held liable. But in so doing, his servant is not excused, as he is bound to obey the master in such things, only as are honest and lawful. If a servant of an innkeeper rob his master's guest, the. master is bound to make good the loss. Also, if a waiter at an inn serve a person bad wine, by which the health of the person is impaired, an action will lie against the master. In like manner, if a servant be permitted to frequently do a thing by the tacit consent of his master, the master will be liable. If a servant is usually sent upon trust with any tradesman, and he takes goods in the name of his master, and appropriates them to his own use, the master must pay for them. But if a person usually deals with a tradesman himself, or constantly pays them ready money, he is not answerable for goods supplied on credit to the servant in his name. Or if a person, forbid a tradesman to trust his servant on his account, and the servant continue to purchase on credit, the master is not liable. The act of a servant, though he has quitted his master's service, has been held to be binding on the master, by reason of the former credit given him on his master's. account, and the fact of the servant's discharge not being known to the party trusting. The master is also answerable for any injury arising by the fault or neglect of his servant when executing his master's business. A master is likewise chargeable for any nuisance occasioned by his servant, to tha damage or annoyance of any individual, or the common nuisance of Her Majesty's subjects. A servant is not answerable to Master for any loss which may happen, unless it be through wilfull neglect; but if he be guilty of fraud or of gross negligence, an action will lie against him by his master.

When servants are drawn for the militia, the position of the parties appears to be this:- If the servant return to his employ within a reasonable time after training, the master is bound to receive him, subjeot to the right of deducting such a sum from his wages as is proportioned to the duration of absence. If he refuse to receive him, the servant may either treat the servioe as continuing, and wait for his wages until the end of the year, or other period agreed upon; or he may treat the service as ended by mutual consent, and at once recover so much wages as is proportioned to the time he served before he went out training. If a servant stipulate to remain for a certain period in his master's service, and he discharges him before the expiration of that period, he is not entitled to recover any wages for the portion of time that he has remained.



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by Derek Pugh
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