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Foster parents as workers? Please tell me that the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain is having a laugh

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain is arguing that foster carers are workers and therefore deserve the same benefits. We value our carers but this is a step too far, argues Martin Tiplady

Foster care

I must be getting old. It is not that I cannot do the activities that I used to – though for the record, I cannot. It is not even that doctors, police officers and everyone else seems to look so young. Again, for the record, they do. And pleased that I am that I am more technically proficient than I ever was – and that is not saying much, it seems that the technology is becoming more difficult for me to grasp. No, the thing that really makes me feel old is the latest Employment Tribunal (ET) claim that left me quite speechless. ‘I’m getting old’ was the only thing I could say when I first heard about the claim launched by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

I have loads of respect for foster carers. Lots of. The work that they do, the way they go about doing it is all so impressive. But the case brought against Hampshire County Council that foster parents might be regarded as ‘workers’ and which, if accepted, opens the gates for entitlement to employment benefits is a big step out of my comfort zone. As respectful as I am about the role of fostering, I do not regard it as a job with pay, benefits, sickness entitlement, annual leave and the like. Nor do I think that the majority of others would either.

Fostering is vocational and about love and care. It is not about entitlement, nor financial reward or employment safety. Nor is it about a promotion opportunity or working time directive. It is solely about the welfare and safety of a child. And if an ET thinks differently, and it bothers me that it might, then methinks that fostering has been completely misunderstood and will be changed beyond recognition. And the law will become an ass. 

If an employment tribunal thinks differently then fostering has been completely misunderstood and will be changed beyond recognition. And the law will become an ass

I understand the ‘emergency’ service provided by foster carers but please, never regard it as a job of work. Much that some of us love our jobs, to regard fostering as a duty on a job description misses the big point about why foster carers exist. And if for one moment, an ET decides to accept the claim, how long will it be before an adoptive parent, a carer or for that matter, a ‘parent’ will be making the same claim. Where does that end?

I have no doubt that the union will tell me that I do not understand and that the precedent has already been set in Scotland. Well I do understand and it is just plain wrong. I know that Scots feature largesse in our politics but that does not make this right. There are reasons why this claim should be dismissed on face value. That is the consequent floodgate it opens.

It is an ill-advised claim and I hope will be seen for what it is. Certainly, it has nothing to do with employment and I hope that the ET kick it a long, long way into touch.


 

Martin Tiplady is a member of The People Space Leadership Board

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