A foster carer has filed an employment tribunal claim against a council for unpaid holiday – amid reports that the case could have much wider implications for carers nationwide.
Sarah Anderson, a foster carer, said she is used by Hampshire County Council but does not have the rights or protections of a “worker”, such as holiday or sick pay.
The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is filing the claim on behalf of Ms Anderson, says the case could “open the doors for thousands of similar claims by foster carers”.
There are around 55,000 fostering households in the UK caring for more than 64,000 children. They receive a weekly allowance to cover the costs of caring for children, as well as a “profit element” – normally around £200 – 250 per week.
But as they do not have a contract with the council, they are not classified as “workers” as outlined in EU directives.
Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWGB, said: “Many foster care workers are highly qualified, put in very long hours, are rigidly supervised and have foster care as their main source of income.
“This case is not about whether or not foster care is a form of work – that ship has sailed – this case is whether those workers should be entitled to the employment rights the rest of us take for granted.”
Ms Anderson added: “As foster care workers we are exploited, have no rights whatsoever and are treated as a disposable workforce, when society needs carers more than ever. We can't advocate or look after our children properly if our rights aren't recognised and protected.”
But the council says the “law is clear” and foster carers are not “workers”. Previously, tribunals and courts in England have ruled that the written agreement between foster carers and councils is not a legal contract.
Dr Moyer-Lee said Ms Anderson’s case is about “establishing those rights so that foster care workers can have the time off and rest they need, and the pension contributions they deserve”.