Labour Research September 2017

Union news

Foster carers win tribunal bid to be classed as council employees

Two specialist foster carers working for Glasgow City Council have won a tribunal ruling that they are employees, with potential implications for a range of employment rights not currently enjoyed by such workers, such as protection from unfair dismissal.

James and Christine Johnstone were seeking compensation from the council for alleged unlawful deduction of wages. The council argued that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the claims as the pair were neither employees nor workers providing a service. 

However, taking their contract as a whole the judge disagreed, saying that “the claimants in this case were employees”. He added: “It appears that [the council] are under a duty to offer work and the claimants are under an obligation to do it.”

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which was involved in the case, described the ruling as “a massive victory”.

However, the ruling was based on the specific facts of the case — in particular that the couple are specialist “multi-dimensional treatment foster carers” - and does not necessarily apply to general foster carers.

The union watchdog, the Certification Officer, recently rejected a claim from the Foster Carers Workers Union to be entered on the official list of trade unions on the grounds that foster carers are not workers working under a contract.