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Foster carers recognised as employees in 'landmark' case

James and Christine Johnstone win tribunal against Glasgow City Council.

Foster carers: Union hailed 'massive victory' (file pic).
Foster carers: Union hailed 'massive victory' (file pic). Voisin/Phanie/Rex Features

Two Scottish foster carers have been recognised as employees for the first time after winning a "landmark" tribunal.

James and Christine Johnstone argued they were entitled to benefits as employees of Glasgow City Council.

The local authority disputed this, however, and an employment tribunal was arranged.

It ruled the couple are employees following a hearing in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which took up the Johnstones' case, called it a "massive victory".

"We would encourage Glasgow City Council to accept the decision and take immediate steps to rectify their unlawful behaviour," he said.

"Other local authorities should take note."

The unusual intensity of the work the Johnstones were doing - known as multi-dimensional treatment - was one of the key factors in the judgment.

Foster carers are paid to look after children but are not considered employees and are not entitled to the minimum wage, sick pay or holidays. They are usually self-employed.

The IWGB believes the Johnstones' case will put pressure on the government to change regulations across the UK.

The ruling does not make a wider judgment on the status of carers, however, and Glasgow City Council may appeal the decision.

In his ruling, judge Ian McFatridge noted: "I am not in any way making a finding about the status or ordinary mainstream foster carers.

"What I am saying is that on the basis of the facts in the current case, the claimants were employees."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it was considering the terms of the decision.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on this specific claim at present," he added.

"However, we do note that the employment judge has explicitly made clear that his findings in this case do not extend to the status of mainstream foster carers."

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