Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify lessons and implications on the theme of decent work in social care. This has long been highlighted as integral to improving social care for the elderly. The COVID-19 pandemic experience reveals lessons and implications about the systemic absence of decent work in one place, Scotland, in care homes. The main lesson and implication is a need for change beyond the focus on levels of pay and systemic advocacy of decent work as it is conventionally understood.

Design/methodology/approach: Data was collected using qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 20 care workers in care homes. A range of care system institutional stakeholders was also interviewed. A range of care system institutional stakeholders was also interviewed.

Findings: Decent work in social care may only be progressed to the extent that a culture change is achieved, transcending the institutional stasis about who owns and engages with progressing decent work.

Research limitations/implications: This is a study in one place, Scotland, with a small sample of frontline care workers in care homes and representatives from a range of institutions.

Practical implications: Effective culture change for decent work in care homes needs to be a higher research priority. More explicit culture policies can be a mechanism by which overall decent work and system change may be catalysed and sustainably secured together. Explicit culture change is here set out with respect to operational, institutional and national domains.

Social implications: There needs to be social policy and political support for situating decent work to be part of a broader culture change around care work with the elderly. A culture-oriented change plan as well as new resourcing and structures can together ensure that the nadir of the pandemic experience was a historical turning point towards transformation rather than being just another low point in a recurring cycle.

Originality/value: The situating of systemic decent work progress within a broader culture change, and modelling that culture change, are original contributions.


This author accepted manuscript is deposited in the University of the West of Scotland under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact permissions@emerald.com.

Cite as

Gibb, S. & Pautz, H. 2022, 'Decent work in care homes: lessons and implications of the pandemic experience from Scotland', Working with Older People. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-02-2022-0007

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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