What do labourer jobs involve?
Despite increasing mechanisation in construction, many tasks are still carried out by hand. This includes much of the ‘fetching and carrying’ – moving materials the final yards from the store-shed to the work site. General labourers work with hand and power tools, performing tasks such as loading, unloading and digging, plus lighter duties like cleaning equipment, machinery and even windows on-site.
The work can be indoors or outdoors, with early starts the norm on construction sites. You could be out in all weathers and will regularly be exposed to plenty of general dust and grime. You’ll need to wear gloves and safety boots, and frequently a hard hat and more specialised safety equipment as required.
What is a general labourer’s salary?
Your salary as a general labourer can vary depending on the size, scope and nature of the project you’re working on. It can also vary from one employer to the next.
General labourer jobs are relatively unskilled or entry-level roles, and you can expect to earn between £14,000 and £19,000 per year.
These figures are intended as a guideline only.
What skills do I need?
It’s important for general labourers to have a good level of general fitness. By its nature, the work is physically demanding with lots of lifting and climbing.
Historically, men have dominated general labouring roles. But nowadays there’s no reason why women with the right attributes can’t shoulder the work too.
You’ll need to be able to follow instructions, and be confident working both on your own and as part of a team. Those who show initiative and a willingness to learn will always be sought after and will discover opportunities to progress into more skilled roles.
What qualifications do I need?
There are no formal requirements for general labourer jobs. However, many employers will ask for GCSEs in subjects such as English and Maths.
It’s helpful if you can demonstrate to employers that you’ve got previous experience in the industry, as well as any particular knowledge – for instance how to mix mortar, or how to safely stack and handle certain materials.
Finally, you’ll need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card if you’re going to be working on a building site.
What are the hours and conditions?
You’ll usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, your hours can vary and you may be required to work evenings and weekends as and when projects require it. This overtime gives you an opportunity to boost your earnings.
Starting as a general labourer really does open up a wealth of opportunities. On large sites, you’ll get to see all kinds of specialists at work, and this can help you to identify where your ambitions lie.
You could return to college to train as a plasterer, carpenter or bricklayer. If you’re technically minded and have a head for figures, you could study to become a plumber or an electrician. General labourers who demonstrate commitment and potential are well placed to progress onto employer apprentice schemes, and earn while they learn.
Areas of specialism
If it suits you to remain in a general labouring role, you can still carve out some specialism. Many skilled trades-people rely on the support of trusted assistants or ‘mates’ who understand the task at hand without needing to be given detailed instructions. There’s strong demand throughout the construction industry for experienced and expert labour.