Symposium 11: The negotiation and regulation of time in formal care arrangements

Convenors: Diane Burns and Cate Goodland (University of Sheffield)

The majority of organisations offering formal care services operate within a context shaped by neoliberal market conditions. In response, for-profit and non-profit care providing entities variably design and/or adapt their business models, managerial processes and operational arrangements with the aim of striking a balance between achieving organisational longevity and serving the needs of people using their services. Issues of organisational fragility and poor care quality are a global concern, effecting many countries. An indicator of good quality in formally arranged care is that provision is both timely and responsive to people’s needs. However, many scholars have illustrated that the level of in-job autonomy care workers require to enable responsivity, is often restricted by managerial processes, rigid care schedules and objectives to use care workers’ time in the most cost-efficient way.
Papers in this proposed symposium are highly relevant to the conference theme. Various aspects important to the negotiation of time within formal care arrangements will be un-packed, examined and discussed. The symposium will focus on the issue of time in the context of care delivered in people’s homes and in long-term care settings. This approach will allow a fuller exploration of time within particular organisational context and from the different perspectives of employers, managers, and care workers – along with people receiving care and trade union officers organising in the sector. Using in-depth ethnographic, case study and interview methods, the papers draw on research data gathered from a range of nursing home, home care, and support providers in the UK and Germany to illuminate the ways in which time is both utilised and controlled, and the subsequent effects for care worker jobs and wellbeing.
The convenors and discussants are members of an international network linked to the UK ESRC-funded programme: Sustainable Care: Connecting people and systems (PI Sue Yeandle).

  • Paper 1: The control of care workers’ unpaid time in innovative home care provider organisations.
Dr Diane Burns, Sheffield University Management School and Dr Cate Goodlad, Centre for International Research on Care Labour and Employment, University of Sheffield, UK

This paper examines how innovative home care businesses structure their operations by controlling time within the design of care worker jobs and operational arrangements they assemble. Drawing on case study data of 4 innovative high achieving home care companies in the UK, we identify how time is differently functioned. In particular, we identify how paid and unpaid care worker time is constructed within employment contracts and the labour process. Through this lens we show how the central features of temporal controls stabilise and destabilise care and discuss the opportunities and risks consequently engendered for individual care workers and care companies.

  • Paper 2: Working unpaid hours in ‘customer-centred’ nursing homes: Implications for workers’ care and personal time in Germany and Sweden
Dr Lander Vermeerbergen, Radboud University/KU Leuven; Juliane Imbush and Professor Valeria Pulignano, KU Leuven; Professor Aoife McDermott, Cardiff University, UK; Ella Petrini, KU Leuven

An increasing number of nursing homes have adopted a ‘customer-centred’ care model. The few studies examining the impact of such organisational models for workers point to over involvement with residents’ lives and a huge increase in work intensity. In this paper, we examine how this influences (unpaid) care and personal time of workers at home and in the nursing home job. We collected 30 narrative interviews and daily diaries on (unpaid) working time with workers in six nursing homes in Germany and Sweden.

  • Paper 3: Live-in care: Migrant care workers’ negotiation of time across boundaries and boarders
Obert Tawodzera, Researcher and Doctoral Student, Professor Majella Kilkey, Dr Magda Lorinc, University of Sheffield; Professor Louise Ryan, London Metropolitan University; Professor Shereen Hussein, Dr Agnes Turnpenny, University of Kent

In live-in care settings, care arrangements are formalised through an employment contract between the family and the care worker (often on zero-hours contracts), where the care worker both lives and works in the private home of their employer. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 27 migrant care workers in the UK, this paper unveils the challenges, complexities and nuances around how formal and informal time is experienced and negotiated in live-in care arrangements. We show how care worker’s responsibilities and duties often drift into more informal arrangements, including picking up domestic work tasks. As a result, time is governed by the task rather than the clock (Daly, 2001) leading to long-hours of work and a blurring of the boundary between work-life and personal-life. Consequently, for migrant care workers the time available to care for their own family members who often live across national borders, become compromised and compressed.

  • Paper 4: Mobilising a time-poor workforce: how time affects union resistance in social care
Grace Whitfield, Researcher and Doctoral Student, Centre for Decent Work, University of Sheffield

This paper focusses on the role of time in shaping trade union mobilisation in England’s social care sector, drawing on interview data with care workers, support workers, company managers, and union organisers. The workers were employed at four companies: a home care provider, a residential nursing home, and two support providers. The findings demonstrate that overwork in the sector – long shifts or large numbers of short calls – stymie the mobilisation efforts of unions, with organisers describing difficulty accessing time-poor workers and difficulty embedding union activism in workplaces.

Discussants: Professor Norah Keating (University of Alberta) and Helena Hirvonen (University of Eastern Finland)

Posted in Conference 2021, Symposia.