A FORMER cafe worker who had to sleep in his car for three weeks after being unfairly dismissed by his employers has won nearly £9,000 in compensation.
Sheriff Bajo, 36, of Menzieshill, was an assistant manager at Pret A Manger in St Andrews in 2015, having worked his way up the ladder after arriving in Britain from Gambia in 2010.
The father-of-one applied for permanent residency in August 2015 and was told his application would be successful — allowing him to stay in the country to support his partner and young child — but the process would take six months to complete.
However, when his boss checked the Employer Checking Service (ECS), Mr Bajo’s visa was “expired” and therefore he was not allowed to work.
This was because the Home Office had failed to issue a Certificate of Application, which would confirm that Mr Bajo was still allowed to work in the UK while his bid was pending.
Despite other proof that Mr Bajo was still allowed to work, Pret A Manger held a disciplinary meeting and sacked him on December 14. Now, following an employment tribunal, Mr Bajo has been awarded £8,811.93.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Bajo said: “It really has been a hard, stressful and emotional time for me. There are rules and regulations in this country and I followed all of them yet I still lost everything.
“This company employed me for five years. I’d worked my way up to a high position then they just fired me like that. My family life was falling apart. Myself and my girlfriend broke up and, because I was no longer earning, the landlord wasn’t renewing my lease. I had to sleep in my car for three weeks and I had to be registered homeless. I didn’t have anything and I couldn’t do anything about it.
“I went to the council to help me find a home and I got registered but there wasn’t anything. I’m a single man so I’m not a priority.
“They gave me a number to call every two days to see if a hostel could take me, but they kept saying they didn’t have anything.”
Mr Bajo’s solicitor, Ryan Russell of Muir Myles Laverty, said: “He was badly let down by his former employer. This case would also serve as a warning for employers on how to deal properly with employees who have the right to work in the UK. The Home Office also let my client down but he should never have been dismissed by his employer with the information they had.”
Pret A Manger was contacted for comment but they hadn’t done so by the time of going to press.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We regret the delay in this case and are investigating why it happened.”