The work of creating a family life: Foster carers and Labour Law

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Foster carers’ recent unionisation and their campaign to be recognised as workers in the UK, will provide the basis to interrogate the public/private divide in this paper. I will argue that the rejection of foster carers’ claims that they are workers by English and EU courts, as well as by the previous Conservative Government, have problematically relied on traditional conceptions of care work belonging in the private sphere. This highlights the pervasiveness of the public/private divide, which is still thought to separate the work of family life, from ‘proper’ work, performed by those with a job. This paper will draw on the ethic of care to show that all caring labour is work, and could be protected by labour law. Even if the breadth of labour law is unchanged, foster carers’ work clearly straddles both spheres, so they should be protected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-497
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number4
Early online date20 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Foster carers
  • labour law
  • workers
  • public/private divide
  • care work

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