Foster Carers have won this case around the rights of foster carers to join and form a trade union, and to engage in collective bargaining as a result (NUPFC v Certification Officer & Ors). The judges determined that foster carers were under an employment relationship for the purpose of Article 11 the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, not being able to join and form a trade union interfered with their rights under Article 11 and there was not a justification for such interference. The IWGB intervened in this case, led by the National Union of Professional Foster Carers (NUPFC).
As a result of the decision, it is established that foster carers have the right to create trade unions and, as a consequence, have official union status and compulsory recognition machinery. This is an important step forward on the road to gaining basic rights such as sick pay, paid holiday and a minimum wage guarantee – something the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has campaigned for since 2016.
However, this still falls short of guaranteeing basic conditions for foster care workers and is limited to the right to unionise. Consequently, the IWGB is now calling on Parliament and the Supreme Court to intervene and update legislation in line with the judgement.
“the government may wish at least to consider whether it would make sense for it to consider seeking now to introduce bespoke legislative provision for the position of foster carers…”
Although this judgement is focused solely on the rights under Article 11, the judges suggested that these previous decisions should be reviewed by the Supreme Court (decisions that were made over 20 years ago). They also stated that “the government may wish at least to consider whether it would make sense for it to consider seeking now to introduce bespoke legislative provision for the position of foster carers, which would either preserve the present exclusion or provide for rights appropriate to their very unusual role”.
The IWGB calls for the MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Foster Care Work, as well as the Minister for Children and Families, to respond to this ruling and push for legislation that grants foster carers their workers’ rights. The union also encourages a Foster Care Workers Bill of Rights in all four devolved nations.
Kenny Millard, Chair of the IWGB Foster Care Workers Branch, said: “This is a crucial victory for foster care workers across the UK. It is the result of years of union organising and grassroots pressure. The path is clear – we must use this right to trade union recognition by continuing to grow union involvement in the sector. Together we’re stronger. The more people that join the Foster Care Workers’ Branch, the more opportunity we’ll have to follow through on the path set by this ruling. This is a massive step in the right direction and is evidence of what can be achieved when workers unite and fight.”