Found -- an old diary that was sold at D. H. Evans department stores-- Ladies' Year Book and Diary for 1932. It had no diary entries and the blotter was unused. There were just a few pencilled notes of domestic use ('tinned meat and fish will keep for 5 years') to add to the many printed practical notes at the front - including this piece mostly on the law relating to servants. At this time this would have been of some use to middle class households as servants were still common. How the servant would go about enforcing the law is not dealt with…did they have a copy at Downton?
The terms of employment of domestic and other servants are dependent on their contract of service.
Unless an agreement has been made to the contrary, domestic servants are engaged on a monthly contract, requiring one month's notice on either side, or a month's wages in lieu of notice. An agreement made at an interview is as binding and enforceable as one made in writing. The only time written evidence is required is where the employment is to continue for more than a year and both employer and employee intend that neither shall give notice to terminate the arrangement within a time.
When a servant has been engaged and refuses to come, or an employer changes her mind about a servant she has engaged, neither is obliged to carry out her contract, but the employer would in many cases be entitled to compensation, and the unwanted servant to a month's wages.
As a rule a servant is justified in asking for proper notice, but in certain circumstances she can be dismissed without this. When a servant is wilfully disobedient, or neglects to obey reasonable orders, is incompetent to render the services for which she was engaged, unlawfully keeps away from her work, is dishonest, or persistently drunk, no notice is required.
Refusal to carry out duties outside the scope of a servant's employment is not sufficient cause for summary dismissal.
A servant wrongfully dismissed has the right of taking an action for damages. She is justified in leaving without notice if her employer does not provide proper food, or treats her badly in any way. In such cases the servant would be justified in claiming damages, usually a month's wages.
The death of an employer terminates the contract with the servant. The employment can for any reason be ended with a month's notice, unless otherwise agreed, or by the payment of a month's wages in lieu of notice. Notice need not be given on the day of the month on which wages are usually paid, but may be given on any day to expire a month from that date.
If a servant leave without sufficient reason she is entitled to wages only for the last completed month of service, and she can claim no wages in respect to any part of the month during which she wrongfully leaves.
No employer is bound to give a charter to a servant, but if such is given it must be a truthful one. If the employer really believes the character given to be true, it is a privileged communication. But if a false character is wilfully given, the person giving it is liable to an action for slander or libel. If on the other hand an employed gives a good character where it is not derived and a third person is let down by it, the employer will be liable to compensate the injured person for any damages entailed.
An employer is not justified in dismissing a servant for temporary illness without notice. Neither is an employer compelled to provide medical attendance or medicine, but if she send for her own doctor she is liable for the doctor's fees, and may not deduct them or the cost of any medicine from the servant's wages.
Under the Workmen's Compensation Act, a master must compensate a servant for accidents occurring in or arising out of his employment. For the payment of a small annual premium Insurance Companies insure against this liability. It is necessary to be acquainted with the conditions of the policy, so that proper steps can be taken immediately in the case of an accident. An accident should be reported to the employer at once, and the insurance company noticed without delay. In the event of an insured person being engaged by two or more employers in the same week, it is open to the employees to come to an agreement to pay the contributions in turn. If no such agreement has been made the responsibility rests with the first employer in the week.