Removals Operative

The Job and What's Involved

Removals operatives move household, office and other furniture and goods to new premises or into storage. They normally work as part of a team to ensure that moves are carried out professionally from start to finish.

They may be responsible for:

  • Taking household goods into or out of storage.
  • Safely packaging items before removal or storage.
  • Office removals or relocations.
  • Large specialist projects such as moving hospital, library or school equipment.
  • Moving furniture and equipment for film and television companies.
  • Moving specialist fine art and furniture.

Their work may include European or worldwide relocations, as well as local or national moves. They may also be involved in storing goods and loading them into containers and working in the warehouse where household goods are stored.

After receiving instructions at base from the removal project manager or estimator, removals operatives normally travel with the removal truck to collect the items. A team leader, who is normally the driver, leads the crew and greets the customer, confirming which items are to be moved or stored.

The team then undertakes the removal:

  • Using packaging to protect fragile items such as computers or antiques.
  • Taking apart large items and sometimes removing doors or windows to get an item out of the building.
  • Taking down curtains and lifting carpets if needed.
  • Loading items into the van safely and securing items with strong belts.
  • Checking that all goods are secure before driving off.
  • Driving to the new location, unloading the items, reassembling large items and placing them where the customer wants them.
  • In some jobs, unwrapping furniture and unpacking cartons.

Sometimes specialist packers from the removal firm go to the site a day or two before the move to wrap and pack delicate items such as glass or china, to prevent breakage or damage.

Specialist packers use advanced techniques for packing delicate objects such as pianos or chandeliers. There are also export packers who protect goods for overseas moves in shipping containers, vehicles or aircraft.

Removals operatives usually work around 40 hours a week, but their working hours may vary depending on the job, with any extra hours worked as overtime. The job may involve early starts, late finishes and weekend work.

Long-distance moves, for example to a European country, involve nights away from home, which usually means sleeping in the vehicle. Most vehicles now have sleeper cabs and cooking facilities.

Operatives spend a lot of time in the cab of the removal vehicle, travelling to and from base and between loading and unloading points.

Moving furniture can be dusty and dirty. It involves a lot of walking, bending, lifting and strenuous effort. Removals operatives normally wear protective clothing and safety footwear which is usually provided by the company.

A driving licence is useful.

Pay for new removals operatives may be from £10,000 to £12,000. Overtime may increase basic earnings.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are removal companies and depots of major removal companies throughout the UK. They vary from large organisations with many branches in different areas, to small local concerns that may have only one or two vans. Some firms have large fleets of vans and offices and depots throughout the world. Some specialise in international relocations for multinational organisations.

Around 30,000 people work as removals operatives across the country. Relocation is now very common and the sector is growing. The level of work in the UK can be affected by fluctuations in the housing market.

Jobs vacancies are advertised in most Jobcentre Plus offices and the local press or online at www.careersinlogistics.co.uk.

Education and Training

There are no specific academic qualifications for a career as a removals operative, although GCSE's in English and maths are useful for coping with some of the complex documentation that may be required. Some firms accept applicants from the age of 16, although others set a minimum age of 18 or even 21. Removal van drivers need a large goods vehicle (LGV) licence.

It may be possible to start in this work through an Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Candidates with experience in delivery work, driving light commercial vehicles or LGV's, may have an advantage over other applicants.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is normally on the job working alongside experienced staff, and is supplemented by training courses at the British Association of Removers' (BARs') regional training centres. Initial training covers manual handling, health and safety, customer service and packaging.

Firms also send staff on short courses validated by the Movers Institute (the educational and accrediting arm of BAR). These cover the different areas of the industry such as domestic house moves, commercial and office moves, overseas moves, removals management and export packing.

The Young Driver LGV Scheme enables trainees who are under 19 years of age to work towards gaining an LGV driving licence. Driver training may also be offered to experienced removals operatives.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships lead to NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in storage and warehousing. NVQ's are also available in carry and deliver goods at Level 2, driving goods vehicles at Levels 2 and 3 and related areas such as customer service.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Removals operatives need:

  • A presentable manner and appearance.
  • To relate easily and politely to customers from all backgrounds.
  • To work well as a member of a team and follow instructions.
  • Good practical skills.
  • Physical fitness.
  • An honest and responsible attitude to other people's property.
  • The ability to work in a careful and orderly way to avoid damaging items.
  • Tact, as customers are often under stress during a removal.
  • The ability to read a map and follow directions to reach locations accurately.

Your Long Term Prospects

With further training, removals operatives may be promoted to become specialist packers and then team leaders. There are also opportunities in sales, removals estimating, project management for commercial moves, accounting and branch management.

It is possible for a removals operative to set up their own company. They would need to gain an operator's Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), as every site operating a transport business has to have someone with this qualification.

Get Further Information

British Association of Removers (BAR),
Tangent House, 62 Exchange Road,
Watford WD18 0TG
Tel: 01923 699480
Website: www.bar.co.uk

Careers in Logistics,
Langstone Technology Park, Langstone Road,
Havant, Hampshire PO9 1SA
Website: www.careersinlogistics.co.uk

The Packaging Society (IoP),
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining,
Springfield House, Springfield Business Park,
Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 7BG
Tel: 01476 514590
Website: www.iop.co.uk

Skills for Logistics,
12 Warren Yard,
Warren Farm Office Village,
Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360
Website: www.skillsforlogistics.org

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