Overview of the role

Contribute to the successful processing of items within the expected timeframe.

Details of standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in the logistics sector and provides the centralised support that enables the rapid distribution of goods in transit to and from couriers and postal services.

Employers in this sector provide the vital link between those sending and receiving a very wide range of letters, parcels, packets and other packages. Organisations are found in the private sector.

A few sortation hubs have direct rail links but the majority rely on the national road network for distribution. The work is always highly organised and often uses the latest technological solutions, as sortation hubs can process millions of items each day. Sortation hub operatives often work for employers that have national coverage, though some are smaller and more specialist and could focus on certain types of goods. 

The broad purpose of the occupation is to contribute to the successful processing of items within the expected timeframe. Sortation hub operatives receive, assess, and sort goods by destination. These goods are then collected for “final mile” delivery. Goods are typically small enough for manual handling, and could be almost anything, from online shopping orders intended for home delivery through to business-to-business sales. Sortation hub operatives are vital therefore in ensuring the smooth running of these complex, often automated operations. 

Sortation hub operatives do not store or deliver goods themselves. Instead, they provide an express service, turning around the distribution of these goods to couriers/postal services and other road transport operators at great speed, often within a few hours of receipt.

Sortation hub operatives can expect to work indoors and at a fixed site. They usually work shifts, which quite commonly includes some unsociable hours. 

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with other sortation hub operatives within their own team, together with the supervisor or manager who they report to. They may need to contact a specialist team following a major problem, for instance with their IT systems or mechanical equipment. Sortation hub operatives may also be expected to liaise on occasion with the organisation who is either sending, delivering or collecting items, including retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, courier companies, and postal companies.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for completing their own work to specification, with minimal supervision, ensuring they meet set deadlines. Sortation hub operatives are responsible for maintaining their own workspace, and responsible for operating highly technical, specialist equipment. Depending on the type of employer this could involve loading/unloading goods using booms (that reach for parcels in trucks) or cages, operating multi-level belt sorters, automated chutes, and using sophisticated IT systems.

They are responsible for meeting quality requirements and working compliantly to their own organisations procedures. They must also work in accordance with health and safety considerations. They will typically maintain and clean machinery and fix minor jams. They will respond to incidents and emergencies, such as damage to parcels,  but will escalate more significant issues that are beyond their own responsibility. Sortation hub operatives tend to work in teams where everyone has a specialist task and all work together in order to complete their shared goals.


Typical job titles include:

Express delivery operative Sortation hub operative

Occupation duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 1 Determine the nature of goods (such as perishables, parcels or mail) and select the most suitable approach to sortation.

K1 K2 K4 K5 K6 K15 K16 K18 K21

S1 S2 S17 S18

B1 B2 B4 B6

Duty 2 Unload and load goods. Use the correct equipment, including for example trays, roller cages, mail bags and loading booms.

K1 K4 K5 K6 K11 K15 K16 K18 K21

S1 S2 S3 S4 S17 S18

B1 B2 B4 B6 B7

Duty 3 Examine goods and identify the destination labelling.

K6 K8 K9 K16 K17 K18

S1 S2 S7 S14 S16 S18


Duty 4 Determine the volume and weight of goods to cost, and match goods to available dispatch services.

K2 K4 K7 K8 K9 K15 K16 K17 K18 K21

S2 S8 S14 S16 S18

B1 B6 B7

Duty 5 Process goods, working with conveyor belts, sortation equipment and chutes.

K4 K5 K7 K8 K9 K10 K11 K12 K16 K18 K21

S2 S3 S9 S10 S17 S18

Duty 6 Read and respond to data for sortation equipment.

K4 K5 K7 K10 K11 K12 K14 K18

S5 S6 S9 S10 S17

B1 B2 B4 B6

Duty 7 Operate manual and semi-automated sortation machinery, such as manual hopper feeds.

K4 K5 K7 K10 K12 K14 K18 K21

S3 S6 S9 S10 S17

B1 B2 B4 B6

Duty 8 Maintain, clean and unblock sortation equipment.

K4 K10 K11 K12 K14 K18 K21

S3 S9 S10 S17

B1 B2 B4

Duty 9 Operate and monitor IT systems used for automated sortation and sequencing.

K4 K7 K10 K12 K18

S3 S6 S9 S10 S17

B1 B2 B4

Duty 10 Calibrate sortation equipment before and after operation cycles.

K4 K5 K10 K11 K12 K14 K18 K21

S3 S6 S9 S10 S17

B1 B2 B4

Duty 11 Escalate sortation problems beyond own control.

K1 K4 K12 K13 K14 K18 K19 K21

S3 S5 S9 S10 S12 S13 S15 S17 S18 S19

B2 B4 B5 B6

Duty 12 Identify and report mechanical failures.

K1 K4 K7 K11 K12 K14 K18

S3 S9 S10 S12 S15 S17 S18

B1 B2 B4 B5 B6

Duty 13 Comply with health and safety and all other relevant sortation procedures.

K4 K7 K12 K14 K15 K16 K18 K21

S3 S10 S13 S15 S17

B2 B4

Duty 14 Identify damaged goods and take action in accordance with own organisation requirements.

K5 K6 K12 K14 K18 K19 K21

S10 S12 S14 S15 S17 S18

B1 B2 B4 B5 B6 B7

Duty 15 Create reports on sortation performance.

K1 K6 K13 K17 K18 K19

S5 S11 S12 S13 S15 S16 S18

B1 B2 B3 B4 B7

Duty 16 Meet organisational targets for express delivery, by coordinating own work with that of the sortation hub team

K1 K2 K3 K6 K13 K14 K16 K18 K19 K20 K22

S4 S13 S15 S18 S19

B1 B2 B3 B6 B7



K1: Last mile and the different types of express delivery business models. Back to Duty

K2: The range of different job roles across express delivery, from supplier through to sortation hub and final mile services. Back to Duty

K3: The importance of the sortation hub in completing a successful express delivery service. Back to Duty

K4: Machinery operating procedures including sortation belts, chutes, York roll containers, drop bags, mail bags, mail cages, and boom loaders. Back to Duty

K5: Manual handling and mechanical handling techniques for different types of goods. The principles for selecting the safest option applicable to the circumstances. Back to Duty

K6: Procedures for collections and returns. Back to Duty

K7: Terminology and procedures that apply when using dedicated sortation IT equipment and automated sortation systems. Back to Duty

K8: Range of labels and the instructions for use in sortation. Back to Duty

K9: Techniques to match service cost to size weight and volume. Back to Duty

K10: Cleaning and maintenance protocols. Back to Duty

K11: Sortation equipment cycles. Back to Duty

K12: Fault finding principles. Back to Duty

K13: Reporting and escalation procedures. Back to Duty

K14: Contingency plans. Back to Duty

K15: The European agreement concerning the International carriage of dangerous goods (ADR). Techniques to apply this legislation within own area of responsibility when working with dangerous goods. Back to Duty

K16: UK postal regulations and universal service obligation. Back to Duty

K17: Data protection legislation and how this applies to sortation. Back to Duty

K18: Health and safety legislation and how this applies to sortation. Back to Duty

K19: Methods of communication. Back to Duty

K20: Principles of working with others in shift patterns. Back to Duty

K21: Techniques for maintaining the integrity of mail, packages, packets and parcels. Back to Duty

K22: Own organisations equality and diversity requirements. Back to Duty


S1: Unload and load items using the correct equipment. For example this may involve cages, bags or booms. Back to Duty

S2: Matches items for sortation with the correct manual, mechanical, or automated handling technique. Back to Duty

S3: Prepares and operates sortation equipment in line with operating instructions. Back to Duty

S4: Responds to deliveries, collections and returns in accordance with own organisation procedures and any relevant contractual arrangements. Back to Duty

S5: Adapts own method of communication to the circumstances, using correct sortation terminology. Back to Duty

S6: Respond to data to support the correct flow of automated sortation. Back to Duty

S7: Assess and update labelling where required to support smooth transition through sortation to delivery. Back to Duty

S8: Match item cost to delivery service and respond to irregularities. (For example, identifying a large envelope with a regular stamp). Back to Duty

S9: Monitor and maintain sortation equipment to the required functionality. For example, the minor adjusting of belts and chutes during a typical shift. Back to Duty

S10: Identify and remedy basic faults in sortation equipment. Back to Duty

S11: Create reports on sortation performance, within limits of own role. Back to Duty

S12: Identify problems beyond own responsibility and escalate to the relevant person. Back to Duty

S13: Follow the contingency procedures that relate to incidents and emergencies. For example, damaged parcels or breakages. Back to Duty

S14: Identify and handle dangerous goods correctly in accordance with legislative requirements. Back to Duty

S15: Coordinate own work with that of others in the team to provide the required sortation tasks. Back to Duty

S16: Store and share data only when it is permitted to do so, in line with data protection legislation. Back to Duty

S17: Work compliantly by following relevant health and safety legislation. Back to Duty

S18: Maintain the integrity and security of items in line with procedures. Back to Duty

S19: Support others by following own organisations equality and diversity requirements. Back to Duty


B1: Takes ownership of work. Back to Duty

B2: Puts safety and security first for themselves and others. Back to Duty

B3: Team-focused and works effectively with colleagues and others. Back to Duty

B4: Committed to keeping up to date with industry best practice. Back to Duty

B5: Sources solutions and seeks to continuously improve and develop. Back to Duty

B6: Calm under pressure. Back to Duty

B7: Acts with integrity, following own organisations required standards. Back to Duty


English and Maths

English and maths qualifications form a mandatory part of all apprenticeships and must be completed before an apprentice can pass through gateway. The requirements are detailed in the current version of the apprenticeship funding rules.

Professional recognition

This standard aligns with the following professional recognition:

  • Institute of Couriers for Associate membership IOC

Additional details

Occupational Level:


Duration (months):



This apprenticeship standard will be reviewed after three years

Status: Approved for delivery
Level: 2
Reference: ST0753
Version: 1.0
Date updated: 20/02/2023
Approved for delivery: 11 February 2022
Route: Transport and logistics
Minimum duration to gateway: 12 months (this does not include EPA period)
Maximum funding: £4000
LARS Code: 674
EQA Provider: Ofqual

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Employers involved in creating the standard: On it Logistics Institute of Couriers Absolutely London Adison Lee BFPO Cambridge Courier Co CitySprint Clipper Logistics Crown Couriers Diamond Logistics DPD DX Eagle Scotland Fedex TNT GLH London Hermes Ocado Quickline Manchester Rico Logistics Royal Mail Smiths News Swift Couriers TopSpeed Watford Tuffnells Whistl Yodel

Version log

Version Change detail Earliest start date Latest start date Latest end date
1.0 Approved for delivery 11/02/2022 Not set Not set

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