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School job hope for man sacked during Windrush crackdown

Michael Braithwaite lost his position at Gospel Oak School despite living in UK since he was nine

23 April, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Michael Braithwaite

A TEACHING assistant who lost his job during the government’s controversial “Windrush” immigration crackdown is due to have talks about getting his job back.

Michael Braithwaite was dismissed from Gospel Oak Primary School two years ago after the Home Office demanded that he provide legal documents and a biometric card proving his right to work in this country. The 66-year-old has lived in the UK since moving from Barbados with his family aged nine in 1961, and did not have the requested documents.

His case is one of several which has triggered nationwide anger at the government for its treatment of people whose parents moved their families to the UK to meet labour shortages.

The New Journal reported last week how Mr Braithwaite has now been issued with a card and has been told he can stay. His supporters say he should be allowed to return to work and Mr Braithwaite is due to meet Gospel Oak headteacher, John Hayes, on Monday.

Mr Braithwaite told the New Journal: “Going back will bring back the memories and bring back the trauma. I need to be sure of my decision, so first I need to get away from here. I need to clear my mind. I’ve been feeling cloudy and foggy for the past two years.”

Mr Hayes, who stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate for Hitchen and Harpenden in last year’s general election, said he was first alerted to Mr Braithwaite not having up-to-date documents when the school carried Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on all of its staff.

Despite being in Camden, the primary school had a contract with Islington Council for HR support and employment legal advice. It meant that Mr Braithwaite was dismissed by the school on the advice of Islington Council. Islington said its HR department had no option but to supply this guidance, as there could be heavy penalties for employers who did not comply with Home Office legislation.

Mr Hayes said: “We wrote to the parents of the school informing them of Michael’s dismissal. It was not a secret. As far as we knew Michael’s was a one-off case. It’s only now coming to light that there have been thousands affected. “I carried out a risk assessment to show there was absolutely no risk with him working with us and we tried to continue to employ him on that basis. But changes at the Home Office meant we couldn’t take him through DBS and the school lawfully could no longer employ him.”

Mr Hayes said he had provided a character reference to the Home Office for Mr Braithwaite, who lives close to the school in Mansfield Road. “Now he has the right documents we hope we can find an arrangement with him. I’m meeting him on Monday for a coffee for a chat. We have a couple of opportunities we’d like to offer him, starting September,” Mr Hayes added.

Hugo Pierre, from the UNISON trade union, who has represented Mr Braithwaite, said: “We always advise schools to get their HR advice from Camden. It’s the best way to deal with employment issues because we can go back and discuss it with them.” Labour councillor Angela Mason, the council’s schools chief, added: “I am sorry he has been subject to such appalling treatment and I’d like to thank him for his service to Camden schools.”

A Camden Council statement said its schools were able to “engage HR and payroll services from a provider of their choice, in this case Islington Council”, adding: “We were not made aware of this dismissal.

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