what is a labourer?

As a labourer, you perform manual work that requires physical strength and fitness. Your duties range from moving items in a warehouse to digging trenches on building sites. Most labourers are employed in the construction industry to do manual or physical work like laying foundations, bricklaying or plastering. You also assist tradespeople with various duties. For instance, you may assist a carpenter with window fitting tasks or help plumbers with repairs and maintenance tasks. Since you work in various trades, your role may involve handling dangerous materials like chemicals or asbestos.

Most labourer duties require you to follow instructions and perform simple tasks assigned by a supervisor. You are likely to operate hand tools to prepare job sites or building materials. Some roles also require operating heavy machinery. For instance, in warehouses, you move items using a forklift. That means you need skills in operating and maintaining forklifts. Labourers also clean work areas and tidy job sites at the end of the workday.

Some skills necessary for the role include high-level fitness and physical strength. Attention to detail and teamwork are also important for completing your tasks meticulously.

Would working as a labourer suit your teamwork skills and physical fitness? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a labourer role.

labourer jobs

average salary of a labourer

According to ONS, the median compensation package for labourers in the UK is £22,245 per year or £11.50 per hour. The wages fluctuate based on experience and the complexity of tasks. Entry-level labourers cannot take up complex tasks and earn £21,225 annually, while experienced labourers take home £26,009 yearly.

Construction labourers have a slightly higher compensation package than experienced workers, earning up to £32,000 a year. General labourers usually earn lower hourly rates, while labourers with specialised skills like demolition or landscaping earn higher wages.

how to increase the salary of a labourer

As a labourer, your earnings depend on your transferrable skills. For instance, if you perform landscaping or demolition tasks, the complexity of the role attracts higher pay. Complex work like bricklaying and groundwork on construction sites improves your salary prospects. The hours you work also influence your compensation package, as full-time roles have higher hourly rates compared with part-time jobs. Working unconventional hours and overtime also boosts your earnings.

Your qualifications also influence your salary. While labourers don't require formal training, having post-secondary education makes a difference. Skilled labourers usually earn more than unskilled labourers.

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.

types of labourers

A labourer is an all-round handyman. However, you can specialise in various fields and learn multiple skills. Some types of labourers include:

  • construction labourer: as a construction labourer, you perform general manual work, including groundwork like marking and digging trenches for foundations. You also fix bars and steelwork to reinforce concrete structures. Sometimes, you move bricks, mortar and timber around the construction site.
  • warehouse labourer: your job is to load and offload deliveries at the warehouse. You work alongside warehouse teams to ensure products are packaged and loaded onto delivery trucks on time. You also organise the warehouse to ensure products are correctly stored.
  • general labourers: as a general labourer, you work in any industry and perform manual tasks assigned to you. General labourers usually work in manufacturing compani0es, retail stores and production plants. They assist in the production process by cleaning and clearing work sites.

working as a labourer

Working as a labourer can be a significant learning experience for those new to the construction industry. Lifting, moving, shovelling and cleaning are basic skills for all labourer roles. Read on to understand your job expectations and how to prepare for a successful career.


education and skills

Some of the ways to become a labourer include:

  • college course: if you want to become a general labourer, you don't require formal education. However, you need some post-secondary qualifications to work in construction. For instance, complete a Level 1 or 2 Certificate in construction skills or construction operations. The course requires two or fewer GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 and helps you get the Construction Skills Certification Scheme card to work on construction sites.
  • apprenticeship: you may also pursue an apprenticeship programme in construction roles like groundworker. Intermediate apprenticeship programmes are also available for road surfacing operatives.

labourer skills and competencies

Apart from basic education, the following competencies are vital in the role:

  • physical fitness: as a labourer, you should be physically fit and strong enough to handle manual tasks. You will lift heavy weights and stand or bend for long hours. Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination are also important for the role.
  • teamwork skills: as a labourer, you work alongside a large team of construction workers, collaborating with others to accomplish your tasks on time. People skills improve your listening, which means you will be better at following instructions from supervisors.
  • mechanical skills: as a labourer, you should have basic skills in using various machines at a construction site. Your expertise in using handheld devices and maintaining them makes your work easier.
  • attention to detail: as a labourer, you should follow instructions keenly to avoid mistakes. Your detail-oriented skills help you improve work quality.
man working inside warehouse
man working inside warehouse


FAQs about working as a labourer

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