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Employers Should Note Foster Worker’s Push For Employee Rights in landmark case

Employers Should Note Foster Worker’s Push For Employee Rights in landmark case

In a case that could open the door to thousands of similar ones, foster care worker Sarah Anderson, whose services are used by Hampshire County Council, is pursuing a claim to the local authority that she be given the same rights and benefits as an employee.

On behalf for Ms Anderson, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has filed an employment status and holiday pay claim.

Ms Anderson, who is chairwoman of IWGB’s foster care workers’ branch, has worked as a foster carer for 10 years, and has worked for Hampshire County Council for the last four. She, with her husband, has provided a foster home for ten children.

She told the BBC:

“As foster care workers we are exploited, have no rights whatsoever, and are treated as a disposable workforce, when society needs carers now more than ever. We cannot advocate or look after our children properly if our rights are not recognised or protected.”

She added: “I can be on call 24 hours a day – evenings, weekends, Christmas, bank holidays – and all we are afforded is two weeks’ respite a year. Our lack of rights extends beyond any proper holiday entitlement – we have no employment rights whatsoever and we can lose our jobs on a whim overnight.”

Should foster carers be granted similar rights to employees?

The Court of Appeal has previously ruled that because foster carers did not have contracts, they could not be recognised as employees. However, in June, the Glasgow employment tribunal ruled that two carers should be classified and treated as employees under Scottish law.

The general secretary of the IWGB, Jason Moyer-Lee, 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 is whether those workers should be entitled to the employment rights the rest of us take for granted.”

According to The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, there are approximately 55,000 households that provide foster care for 64,000 children in the UK. Foster carers are provided with an allowance for child care and are given £200 – 250 each week for the work they do.

In response to the case, Hampshire County Council has reiterated that the law clearly states that foster carers are not seen as employees.

Many gig workers want employers to provide them with basic rights

The rise in the ‘gig economy’ – a working environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements – has led to many criticising the lack of rights and benefits granted to workers in the current economic climate. A 2017 survey published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 1.3m now work in the gig economy. The survey reported that 63% of gig workers feel the Government should provide them with benefits and basic employment rights.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “This research shows the grey area that exists over people’s employment status in the gig economy. It is often assumed that the nature of gig work is well-suited to self-employment and in many cases this is true. However, our research also shows many gig economy workers are permanent employees, students, or even the unemployed who choose to work in the gig economy to boost their overall income.”

He added:

“Our research suggests that some gig economy businesses may be seeking to have their cake and eat it by using self-employed contractors to cut costs, while at the same time trying to maintain a level of control over people that is more appropriate for a more traditional employment relationship. Many people in the gig economy may already be eligible for basic employment rights, but are confused by the issue of their employment status.”

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