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Tribunal victory for foster carers

A ruling that means foster carers are classed as council employees is “a significant decision reflecting the valuable service that foster carers deliver”, according to the Balfour+Manson lawyer involved in the case.
Employment Partner Robert Holland represented James and Christine Johnstone in their case against Glasgow City Council. 
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 want compensation for the withdrawal of wages, but needed to be regarded as council employees to do so. 
Mr Holland, an employment partner with Balfour+Manson, 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.”
Mr Holland stressed that the ruling applied at this stage only to a distinct category of  foster carers, but added: “This is obviously a significant decision reflecting the valuable service that foster carers deliver My clients carry out  a very important job in society, and the tribunal has decided they should receive the same employment rights as others  in full-time work.” 

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

Previously, Mr Johnstone has said: “When you see a young person come in, it can take a long time, maybe three to six months, to get through to them. But we stick with it, they stick with it and when you can see a change at the end of that where they go back with their families, it tugs at the heart strings.
“That’s what it’s all about. It’s life-changing work and were central to that.”
He added: “We are paid a fee, but with most foster carers it is just a fee and not a salary. They don’t have holidays, holiday pay or anything at all, and this needs to be looked at.
“You are asking people to come in and look after society’s vulnerable young people and they don’t have any rights. Right across the country there are foster carers getting abused, removed for complaining, for anything. And this affects, most importantly, the young people you are trying to work with. ”

The Johnstones were supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.