what is a general labourer?

A general labourer is a support worker at a business, predominantly within a trade. A general labourer would usually complete tasks that do not require any specific knowledge or training – for example, cleaning up materials, performing manual labour, hanging signs or filing reports.

The role normally works under a supervisor and general labourer tasks can often be physically demanding. However, some general labourers can also end up carrying out basic office work such as answering phone calls or transporting files from one department to another.

where do general labourers work?

The majority of general labourers work across fields such as construction and landscaping. These industries often need physical labour and do not require specialist skills as such. General labour duties can include a variety of tasks such as installing windows or weeding a flower bed, and general labourers often work as an assistant to painters, carpenters, roofers or other specialised workers. Additional tasks might include handling parking at large events, moving furniture for offices, or other similar duties.

general labourer jobs

what is the average general labourer salary in the UK?

General labourers' wages can vary quite a lot and this type of worker is almost always paid on an hourly basis. The national average for hourly pay is £9.27 per hour, but wages can vary from around £8 per hour to £12 per hour. Many general labourers are part-time, which reduces their overall amount of pay.

Someone who works as a general labourer full-time usually makes an average of around £20,000 per year but, in some cases, could make up to £22,000. According to the National Careers Service, a construction labourer could expect a starting salary of around £17,000 per year.


factors that affect general labourer salaries

The reason why there is so much variation in general labourer salaries in the UK is because the job can involve so many different tasks. General labourer jobs that are riskier or more unpleasant will pay usually more. The other main factor is location. Areas with a high cost of living like London tend to pay more for general labourer jobs.

Finally, the general labourer salary in the UK is usually affected by whether it is a full-time, part-time or temporary job. Companies will often pay part-time or temporary workers less per hour.


Three colleagues having a laugh during a lunch break while sitting on a pile of wood.
Three colleagues having a laugh during a lunch break while sitting on a pile of wood.

education and qualifications

If you’re wondering what you need to be a labourer, then you might be pleased to know that you do not have to meet any extensive educational requirements. Though many business owners prefer general labourers to have a diploma or equivalent, there are also a lot of organisations that will hire general labourers with less educational experience.

However, if you are working with certain chemicals or equipment, you might need to take a basic training course, although most businesses who hire general labourers will provide on-site training for this.


physical fitness

The main requirement for being a general labourer is just being reasonably physically fit and you’ll need to be able to withstand the physical rigors of the job. Some jobs may include specific requirements such as being able to lift a certain weight. Others do not have particular benchmarks that you must meet but will still expect you to be able to carry out physically demanding tasks.

As long as you do not have any medical conditions, you may find that getting experience as a general labourer can improve your physical fitness and help you to reach the level needed to progress to other specialist jobs.


knowledge of construction tools and methods

General labourers who have a working knowledge of how construction sites are run and how to use tools will have an advantage when applying for jobs, especially within this industry. Though many companies are willing to teach general labourers these things, most prefer workers with at least some basic experience.

This does not necessarily mean that you need to know how to use advanced equipment but it is a good idea to have some knowledge such as hammering in nails, working with a paint roller or running a lawnmower, for example.


ability to follow safety instructions

For most job sites, there are safety instructions in place, as stated by the HSE. This can include things like wearing a safety line while working on high roofs or using personal protective equipment when working with certain tools. Your employer will usually instruct you in these matters but you will need to be able to remember and follow the regulations correctly to maintain on-site safety for yourself and other workers.


good hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness

Since general labourers spend a lot of time working with their hands, coordination and spatial awareness are beneficial skills to have. Workers who can accurately judge distances, properly align items, and correctly estimate the amount of needed materials for a job will be an asset to their company.


types of general labourer roles

The types of general labourer jobs are usually defined by the industry. The most common are:

  • Construction labourers who work on sites and at buildings.
  • Maintenance or custodian general labourers who focus on clean-up and grounds-keeping.
  • Rail crew or dock general labourers who help out at a specific site like a local rail station.
  • Office labourers who assist with things like carrying messages, taking notes and removing supplies from storage.
  • Event general labourers who help with setup for fairs, sporting events, concerts and other special events.

working as a general labourer

Just about every general labourer will have a different work experience, depending on the type of role and industry. However, there are a few general labour duties that most workers will encounter on the job.


manual labour

General labourers are responsible for handling all sorts of manual labour on their job site. This does not necessarily mean that you will spend all day carrying out gruelling physical labour but you do need to be prepared for quite a lot of intensive work. This can include tasks like:

  • digging holes
  • carrying lumber
  • pushing a wheelbarrow full of gravel
  • transporting paint buckets from one end of the job site to the other
  • holding a door in place while others mount it

There are also a variety of other manual labour tasks that you are likely to carry out during your working day, depending on the type of role and industry in which you’re working.


assistant duties

General labourers can also work as assistants for other workers on any job site. You may be asked to fetch tools from a truck, call to confirm an appointment for a repair or go to the store for supplies. Assistant duties can vary a lot depending on what sort of business for which you're working but these jobs can be great opportunities to increase your skillset in an area that interests you.

As a construction-site labourer, for instance, you will learn skills such as bricklaying, installing tiles or planning landscaping. Over time, you’re likely to transition from assisting others to handling the jobs on your own.


working with tools

Though general labourers are not expected to have a lot of specialised knowledge, many of them do end up working with tools. This can include anything from using a power drill to operating a lawn mower. In this case, you will be responsible for learning how to use the tool safely and be required to follow all workplace regulations.


work environment

A lot of general labourers end up working outdoors and you need to expect to be working in all weathers such as high heat, chilly temperatures and damp conditions. However, not all general labour jobs require being exposed to extreme weather. Some, such as warehouse labourers, might spend the majority of their time working inside or at least under cover.

General labourers often need to travel to various job sites, so you're likely to need your own form of transportation.

The work environment for a general labourer is usually fairly low-pressure. Though you’ll need to be able to follow instructions and complete tasks in a timely manner, you are not responsible for figuring out solutions on your own or working independently.


work schedule

A general labourer's schedule can shift depending on the job but most work during the daytime. They are typically needed during the hours in which their business or their boss is working; however, it is possible to find some general labourer jobs that involve night shifts, early mornings or other unconventional schedules.

The average day at work can last anywhere from four to nine hours. Most labourers work full shifts but there is also a lot of demand for part-time general labourers. Some workers may spend a few weeks working long shifts every day on a specific project, and then have a break before the next job starts. However, not every general labourer has a chaotic schedule. Those who are hired full-time by a larger company can have a more predictable routine.


job outlook

In general, labourers have a very positive job outlook. The unemployment rate for this career is around 7%, meaning that it is typically very easy for people to find a job as a general labourer. You may be able to consider multiple job options and find ones that pay the best or offer the most opportunities which can allow you to start learning valuable skills and gaining good experience.

You can also network, getting to know local businesses and proving your commitment and dedication. Many general labourers go on to work in other, higher-paying jobs within their industry. These include foreman or manager, or other specific construction-site roles, or specialised tradesperson such as a builder or plasterer.



work with Randstad as a general labourer

Being a general labourer can be a great opportunity to start a career in the construction or landscaping industry. Most of these businesses hire and promote based on experience and know-how, and general labourers are given plenty of opportunities to learn more about the industry once in a role.

If you’re interested in finding your new role, take a look at our general labourer jobs.



Here are the most asked questions about working as a general labourer.

thank you for subscribing to your personalised job alerts.