A landmark Scottish legal case which could pave the way for foster carers across the country to gain employment rights is due to take place on Wednesday.

Campaigners claim the case could set a precedent for foster families and eventually lead to them securing rights such as sick pay, pension entitlement and whistleblowing and discrimination protection.

The long-running proceedings centre on Glasgow couple Jimmy and Christine Johnstone who became the first foster carers in the UK to be given employee status after winning their initial case against the city council.

An employment tribunal found that their fostering agreement, a specialist deal with the council’s Treatment Foster Care (TFC) service, amounted to a contract of employment.

However, the decision is now being appealed by the local authority, which claims foster carers are “neither workers nor employees”.

Jane Wright, of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) foster carers branch, which is supporting the Johnstones, claimed the case - at the Employment Appeal Tribunal - could prove to be “very significant” for foster carers and local authorities.

She said: “There are around 4000 foster carers in Scotland and, although the initial judgment in this case specifically deals with the families within this treatment foster care system, potentially there is an argument that if their fostering agreement can be seen as a contract of employment then others could be as well.

“If the council loses this appeal, they’ll need to grant full employment rights to the foster families who were working within this scheme, but I think it would also open the door for more cases arguing that all foster carers should have the right to whistleblow or be paid the minimum wage. It’s potentially very significant.”

Mr and Mrs Johnstone, of Knightswood, decided to take legal action in 2017 after raising concerns about a young person who had been placed in their care via the TFC service, which dealt with some of the Glasgow’s most vulnerable and troubled children.

The service was closed down shortly after the Johnstones won their case.

The couple claim a lack of action by the authority over concerns about their own health, as well as that of the child, left them with no choice but to seek legal action.

Speaking to The Herald ahead of today’s hearing in Edinburgh, Mr Johnstone said: “The last few years have been very stressful and worrying for us. At times we could’ve walked away but we’ve been determined to keep going and fight to the end.

“The council could have solved this a long time ago, but they’ve decided to keep appealing. We just hope this hearing will finally bring an end to it so we can move on with our lives.”

The IGWB is campaigning for foster carers to be given an employment status known as limb (b), which treats them as dependent contractors.

This would afford carers the minimum wage, holiday pay and whistleblowing and discrimination protection.

The Johnstones and the union believe this would encourage more people to take up fostering and allow for better provision for children and young people.

Ms Wright said: “We have this odd system at the minute where we’re quasi-self-employed. It’s clearly not traditional self-employment, we’re not running a business, but we also don’t have any workers’ rights.

“Foster carers can be deregistered or lose their position with a lot less scrutiny than anyone who is an employee.

“If we put more rights and protections in place, then I think more people would definitely decide to foster.”

She added that it would also offer more “stability” for the children in their care and allow carers to speak out more easily on safeguarding issues.

Mr Johnstone added: “Foster carers do life-changing work.

“I’ve always thought it was crazy that, as foster carers, we’re working with teachers, social workers, doctors etc, we’re in the middle of everything and we’re the ones spending the most time with the child, but we’re also the ones without any rights or protection.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “The council is appealing the decision of the employment tribunal involving Mr and Mrs Johnstone.

“The decision applied to a specialist fostering service which was unable to secure the anticipated outcomes for young people over time and has since been closed.

“The very ethos of fostering is about creating a warm, supportive and ordinary family life. Consequently, the council’s position is that foster carers are neither workers nor employees.

“They are caring, civic-minded people who open their homes and lives to make a positive difference to young lives.”