Employment laws are put into place to protect employees from any mistreatment by their employers and are a vital part of a country's efforts to protect its citizens. 大多数国家都有自己版本的保护工人的法律, 但总的来说, 就业法解决了以下问题:员工过度劳累, 处于不健康或危险的环境中, 或因无适当补偿而不能工作的. 在一些国家, employment laws also guarantee that workers can't be unfairly discriminated against, and allows foreigners a period of time during which they can legally work in the country. 这些法律在工业革命后不久开始实施, during which time employees were highly mistreated and lacked legal protection against employers.
Depending on the country, most employees are greatly protected under some form of an employment law. 在许多国家, laws have been passed to establish standards that employers must follow in providing benefits, 比如健康保险, to their employees; this may include additional coverage for health problems that arise due to conditions of the job or workplace. 劳动法也可能包括对 歧视 在工作场所的种族歧视, 性别, 宗教, 残疾, 或资深地位, 并可对外国人就业作出规定.
在欧洲, 每个国家都需要设计自己的就业保障体系, 每个国家的法律都略有不同. 法国, 例如, has a written Labor Code and other enforceable rights that protect employees from harmful situations, 而英国没有成文的劳动法, but does hold specialist employment tribunals as part of their court system to help solve any employee's concerns. China requires the majority of the workforce to be under contract with employers, which makes it next to impossible for an employer to fire an employee; this form of employment law states that unless an employee has broken a rule or regulation, 合同必须按规定执行. Also, to help avoid employees working too many hours, China does not usually have 工资支付员工, 但通常每周只工作40小时, 如有需要，可加班费.
Before the Industrial Revolution, there was little or no protection for employees. 雇主基本上可以随心所欲地对待他们的员工, often paying them wages as low as possible while having them work as long as they were physically able. 工作条件经常非常肮脏, 如果不危险开机, and workers were offered no benefits 比如健康保险 or worker's compensation in the event of an accident on the job. 在就业法实施之前, 儿童是劳动力的一部分，并受到雇佣虐待.
随着工业革命席卷美国, 欧洲, 其余的国家现在被称为工业化国家, more and more people left their rural lives to live in cities and work in factories. 随着员工的增加，工作条件也在恶化, and it became clear that governments would need to step in to protect the rights of the workers. 这些最初的努力最终被现代劳动法所取代.
早期的就业法最初是为了确定公平的工资, 限制一周的工作时间, 防止儿童被剥削. 此外，还制定了规范工作场所清洁的规则, and employers were required to take precautions to protect their employees and prevent dangerous accidents. 这些最初的努力仍然是就业法的重要组成部分, 尽管多年来他们已经根据需要进行了改进和扩充.