Gradually people's relationship to their employers moved from one of status - formal subordination and deference - to contract whereby people were formally free to choose their work.However, freedom of contract did not, as the economist Adam Smith observed, change a worker's factual dependency on employers.Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 strikes are basically lawful if they are "in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute".
Ultimately this led to the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, which was in turn suppressed and followed up with the Statute of Cambridge 1388, which banned workers from moving around the country.
Yet conditions were improving as serfdom was breaking down.
The purpose of these rights is to ensure people have dignified living standards, whether or not they have the relative bargaining power to get good terms and conditions in their contract."It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.
The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen.
In the UK in 2012, of the total working population 29.6 million people were employed, there was 8.1% unemployment, and 73.4% without union membership.
The average income was £25,498, and the average working week was 41.4 hours.
In feudal England, the first significant labour laws followed the Black Death.
Given the shortage of workers and consequent price rises the Ordinance of Labourers 1349 and the Statute of Labourers 1351 attempted to suppress sources of wage inflation by banning workers organisation, creating offences for any able-bodied person that did not work, and fixing wages at pre-plague levels.
In some enterprises, such as universities, This happens through a steadily increasing number of work councils, which usually must be requested by staff.