Foster carers win legal battle to be classed as employees

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James and Christine Johnstone took Glasgow City Council to an employment tribunal

3rd August 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A legal ruling has deemed foster carers can be classed as council employees.

In a tribunal case brought by foster carers James and Christine Johnstone against Glasgow City Council, the couple were judged to be employees of the authority in their role within the multi-dimensional treatment foster care team.

The Johnstones, who have fostered five different children, claimed they suffered an unlawful deduction to their wages after not having a child placed with them for a year. 

They argued they should have the same rights as all council staff – and an employment tribunal found in their favour.

Foster carers sign an agreement with councils – but previously this was not deemed to be an employment contract. Mr and Mrs Johnstone have said they want compensation for the withdrawal of wages, but need to be regarded as council employees to do so.

In his ruling this week, Judge Ian McFatridge stated: “In finding for the claimants in this case I am not in any way making a finding about the status of ordinary mainstream foster carers. What I am saying is that on the basis of the facts in the current case, the claimants were employees of the respondents.”

Robert Holland, of Balfour+Manson, who represented the couple, said: "The tribunal found there was a de facto contract between the Johnstones and the council and that the Johnstones are therefore employees.

“It also found there were different facts from a similar English case, and that the Scots law of contract was relevant – so the Johnstones claim was not restrained by the English rulings.

“The ruling noted that the council was enforcing contractual obligations by their no work, no pay policy – and that the level of control and mutual obligations meant they were clearly employees."

Holland stressed that the ruling applied at this stage only to a distinct category of foster carers, but described it as significant.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “For too many years foster carers have not been given the status, respect, training, support and remuneration that they deserve and which they require in order to be able to look after the children in their care.

“This is not only crucial for the recruitment and retention of foster carers but, equally importantly, for the tens of thousands of children who are fostered every day.”

The case will now go forward to a final hearing, specifically focusing on the issue of wages.