Pontins used 'undesirable guests' list to discriminate against Gypsies and travellers, EHRC says

March 02, 2021

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has struck a "binding legal agreement" with the owner of Pontins after claims it used an "undesirable guests" list to stop bookings by Gypsies and travellers.

The EHRC said it received the information from a whistleblower, alleging calls were monitored in Pontins' contact centre and that bookings for its holiday parks made by people with an Irish accent or surname were refused or cancelled.

It was also alleged that a list of Irish surnames, published on the company's intranet page, was entitled "undesirable guests".

Staff were required to block any potential customers with those names from booking, it was claimed.

Pontins was also said to use its commercial vehicles policy to exclude Gypsies and travellers from its sites.

The EHRC said it had seen a copy of the "undesirable guests" list, and the claims aligned with previous complaints it had received.

Pontins was "declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group", the watchdog said, and in so doing, was "directly discriminating on the basis of race and breached the Equality Act 2010".

The legal agreement requires Pontins' owner, Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, to conduct an investigation into the "undesirable guests list" and to ensure appropriate action is taken.

It must also review its intelligence system, booking policies and commercial vehicle policy, to ensure they are not operating in a discriminatory way.

And it has to provide staff with equality and diversity training and appoint "equality, diversity and inclusion champions" across the organisation.

Alastair Pringle, executive director of the EHRC, said: "It is hard not to draw comparisons with an 'undesirable guests' list and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and black people.

"Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful. To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement."

A Britannia Jinky Jersey spokesperson said: "Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited has agreed to work together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to further enhance its staff training and procedures in order to further promote equality throughout its business."

The agreement began on 22 February and will be monitored by the EHRC to see if the agreed actions are completed.

The watchdog added that if Pontins did not follow through, it has "the power to launch a full investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006".

Downing Street said what had happened was "completely unacceptable".

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "No one in the UK should be discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.

"It's right that the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Pontins investigate and address this."

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