This article reconstructs the size and organisation of the rural market in hired labour in fourteenth-century England, providing a comparative reference point for arrangements elsewhere in medieval Europe. Quantitative assessment of 1,445 manorial court sessions from six manors casts new light on the English labour market, which was larger and less regulated than previously assumed and the government's wide-ranging labour legislation in the wake of the Black Death was novel in its scale and provisions. Contrary to received wisdom, manorial authorities made few efforts to regulate labour. The older view had placed an over-reliance on the early work of W.O. Ault and had ignored the significance of nil returns. The reasons for the lack of regulation, and its implications for our understanding of the complex interaction between pandemics, labour markets, and legal responses are explored. Finally, the study illustrates how legal responses to pandemics can have inadvertent yet profound consequences.