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Monday, 09 October 2017

Hampshire foster carer launches employment rights claim in landmark legal case

Written by Sally Wardle

A foster carer is launching a claim over her employment rights in what could be a landmark legal case.

Sarah Anderson, who is used by Hampshire County Council, argues that she is a worker and entitled to rights including holiday pay.

The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will file an employment status and unpaid holiday claim on behalf of Ms Anderson on Monday.

Foster carers in the UK are paid by local councils, agencies or charities, but are not currently recognised as employees.

The case "could open the doors for thousands of foster care workers in the UK to have their employment rights recognised", the IWGB said.

Ms Anderson (pictured), who is chairwoman of IWGB's foster care workers branch, said: "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."

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that foster carers "work 24/7" and are "exhausted", taking only two weeks respite per year.

"It's a very misused system. It's also, I feel, used to keep us in our place," she said.

"Now I'm the first person to have actually stood up and said 'enough is enough', we need some human rights, never mind anything else."

She added: "We do one of the most valuable jobs in society, for society. We look after other people's children, not our own.

"Does us wanting worker status mean we don't care for our children? No, of course it doesn't.

"But we do need some recognition, and we need some more holiday, we need to be protected, we need to be able to go off sick, paid while we are off sick."

The Court of Appeal previously ruled foster carers could not be recognised as workers as they do not have contracts, the IWGB said.

But in June, the Glasgow employment tribunal recognised two carers as employees under Scottish law.

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 case is whether those workers should be entitled to the employment rights the rest of us take for granted."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Hampshire County Council.