Things are changing in the way in which this foster care is considered by Employment Tribunals. Why? For the answer you have to look at the case that was decided in Glasgow in August this year, which is changing the landscape of these considerations.
The claimants – the Johnstones – had fostered five different children but then had a period of a year when the Council did not place a child with them. Their claim is for unlawful deduction of wages, but first they had to argue that they were employed and wages were due to them.
As foster carers they had signed an agreement with the Council. Generally foster carers are paid a sum for their work with the child. They are generally also paid a weekly allowance to cover the cost of looking after the child. The amount of this allowance may vary according to the needs of the individual child. Previously this type of agreement has never been held to be an employment contract – until this case. But to claim unlawful deduction of wages, they first had to establish that they were employees of the Council. The Tribunal looked at the facts as they existed and decided that there was a contract between the Johnstones and the Council. They were employees and the case for unlawful deduction of wages will be heard in due course.
Today the media reports show that there is a case forthcoming against Hampshire County Council. This time the case seems to be that the foster carer was a worker and therefore entitled to holiday pay, sick pay, protection from discrimination, and other rights afforded to a worker.
Yet again in employment law there are potential changes and we should watch this space and see what happens. Tomorrow is another day and things could change all over again. Never a dull moment.