AN ‘inappropriate’ council advert stating specialist foster carers would be paid a salary may be the key to victory in a landmark employment tribunal.

The advert was presented by QC Aidan O’Neill during a hearing in Glasgow yesterday, which is taking place to determine if two foster carers should be considered as employees of Glasgow City Council during their work with troubled young people.

Mr O’Neill stated his clients, Knightswoood foster carers James and Christine Johnston, had a “clear contract of employment” in their roles as members of the multi treatment team foster care(MTFC) programme, which work with some of Glasgow’s most challenging young people.

He added that the “level of control, exercise in MTFC programme, the mutuality of the agreement...All the facts point to this being a contract.”

The tribunal heard from Ann Gilchrist, an assistant service manager at Glasgow City Council, who was quizzed over the use of the word “salary” in meeting minutes and the online advert.

The council manager said the phrase “should not have been authorised” and she could give “no explanation” as to why it was used.

She said: “It is my opinion that it was used inappropriately.

“We are clear it is a fee that is received.”

In his submission to judge Ian McFatridge, Mr O’Neill said: “This is as clear a case of a contract as you are going to get. It is entirely clear they are employees.”

He referred to the fact the carers got holiday pay, and the extreme level of control and scrutiny they were put under while working in the programme as well as the agreements in place between them and management was evidence of employment.

Brian Napier QC, who is representing Glasgow City Council in the case, argued that the tribunal should “only answer the case before it” and added it would be “sufficient to make a finding of worker status” as opposed to employee status.

He said: “It is clear the relationship was not top-down.”

Urging judge Ian McFatridge to “look beyond written documents”, Mr Napier said there was evidence given before the hearing which explains how the programme was managed in practice, in a consensual manner.

He referred to English law, which has already ruled foster carers are not employees, and said: “It is common practice for Scottish tribunals to follow English decisions on employment.

“There is no tradition in seeking a different set of rules.”

Foster carers from across Scotland attended the two day hearing, eager to hear what the judge had to say.

If he rules the Johnstons are employees, it could mean other foster carers would be entitled to rights such as holiday pay and pensioners.

A written decision is expected within four weeks.