The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is helping bring a claim that could shake-up the terms of employment of foster care workers in Scotland and put further pressure on the UK Parliament to address the legal uncertainty under which foster carers work throughout the country.
In a preliminary hearing, expected to take place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal in the coming months, the IWGB’s lawyers, Aidan O’Neill QC and Balfour+Manson LLP, will argue that James and Christine Johnstone are employees of the council, and as such are entitled to minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay.
A positive outcome for the Johnstones will put further pressure on Parliament to address the deeply unfair terms under which local councils retain the services of foster care workers, as it would contradict existing case law in England and Wales.
Foster care workers in the UK, while they are paid by local councils to look after children, are not recognized as workers nor employees.
As austerity continues to bite on local authority budgets, the amount being allocated to foster care workers is shrinking, adding more strain on these carers and the children they look after. But despite the difficulties they face, their current employment status precludes them from seeking redress through channels that are open to workers or employees.
“Foster care workers do extremely important work, they are highly supervised, told what to do and how to do it, and paid for the work they do, yet have no workers rights,” said IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee “Unpleasantly, the courts in England and Wales have failed to deal with this issue appropriately, but in Scotland the issue of foster care worker employment status is yet to be determined and determining it is precisely what we intend to do with this case.”
The IWGB launched the Foster Care Workers Branch in September 2016, with the broad objective of achieving employment rights for foster care workers across the UK.
Determining the employment status of the Johnstones is part of a wider case brought by the couple for unlawful deduction of wages and victimization for whistleblowing.
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