A KNIGHTSWOOD couple working as foster carers have won a bid to be recognised as council employees in a “landmark” tribunal ruling.

James and Christine Johnstone raised employment tribunal claims seeking compensation in part for what they alleged was unlawful deduction of wages.

Glasgow City Council (GCC) raised an initial point arguing the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the claims on the basis that the pair were neither employees nor workers providing a service to the local authority.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which was involved in the case, described it as a landmark ruling and a massive victory for employment rights for foster care workers, arguing that carers not recognised as workers or employees are denied rights such as protection from unfair dismissal and protection for whistleblowing.

And they urged all local authorities to “take note”.

Glasgow City Council said it was still considering the decision and could appeal. West Dunbartonshire Council said it would also look at it.

The authority said: “West Dunbartonshire Foster Carers are not considered employees of the local authority. We will consider the findings of this case to identify if there are any lessons for the services we provide in West Dunbartonshire.”

Mr and Ms Johnstone saw an ad in 2010 for the Multi-Dimensional Treatment Foster Care team, offering a professional fee of £30,160 per year, separate allowance for the young person, 24/7 support, training and four weeks paid holiday a year.

The programme was for particularly challenging young people with “extreme behaviours” and the couple had the opportunity to help change their lives.

They had one young person in their home each year for five years.

But by December 2015 and January 2016 they felt there were health and safety concerns, which they argue weren’t addressed. That was the primary drive for eventually turning to the employment tribunal.

That case can only now move forward after it was decided the couple, both 54, were employees of Glasgow City Council, something the council fought against.

Father-of-two James told the Post: “They kept reminding us we were not employees and had no rights. We are happy it’s in the public domain and being talked about. Hopefully it will be landmark. In our opinion, this is just the start.

“When we came into fostering, it felt like a calling. We had to give up our jobs to come into it but it felt treatment fostering was ground breaking to help young people between 11 and 17 to get back on track.

“This is to get basic rights as any other worker in the country. If you had these rights, it enables you to do a better job for your young people.”

In the ruling, Employment Judge Ian McFatridge stated: “What is of considerable weight is the mutuality of obligation and the very high degree of control which is exerted over the claimants in carrying out their duties. It appears that the respondents (the council) are under a duty to offer work and the claimants are under an obligation to do it.”

However, in making his decision, the judge also stressed: “I am not in any way making a finding about the status or ordinary mainstream foster carers.

“What I am saying is that on the basis of the facts in the current case, the claimants were employees of the respondents.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We are considering the terms of this decision and it would be inappropriate to comment on this specific claim at present.”