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Employment Appeal Tribunal upholds ruling specialist foster carers were employees of Scottish council

A trade union has hailed as a landmark ruling a case in which the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that foster care workers were council employees and so entitled to employment rights.

Glasgow City Council said though that the ruling did not apply to those working in mainstream foster care.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said the case “cuts to the heart of the UK’s national foster care crisis, [and] sets a major precedent for the sector”.

It said the “landmark ruling that will open the doors for employment rights for foster care workers throughout the UK”.

Foster care workers Jimmy and Christine Johnstone launched the case in 2017 after a young person in their care proved to be a danger both to the couple and themselves.

They won the case but Glasgow appealed the ruling and has now lost at the Edinburgh Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The IWGB argued the couple were entitled to the employee rights including sick pay, holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and protections for whistleblowing.

Mr Johnstone said: “For years we were told we had no rights. No employment rights, no right to representation or due process and no right to speak out even when our family was at risk. This is the reality facing foster care workers nationwide.”

But Glasgow said the ruling applied only to a specific type of foster care - a treatment foster care service, which helped children and young people who had experienced repeated placement disruption and as a consequence, repeated moves.

This service had though since been discontinued as poor value for money.

A Glasgow spokesman said: “This judgment relates to a service that provided a specialist form of foster care. We are now carefully considering the implications of the judgment.

“The council notes however, that as with the initial employment tribunal decision, the findings in this judgment do not extend to the status of mainstream foster carers.”

Mark Smulian

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