Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Pontins served with unlawful act notice by equality watchdog after race discrimination investigation

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has served Pontins with an unlawful act notice after an investigation found multiple instances of race discrimination against Irish travellers at the holiday park operator.

Pontins, owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, was found to have committed several clear breaches of the Equality Act. These included:

  • Creating a list of common Irish surnames labelled as ‘undesirable guests’, instructing staff to decline or cancel bookings made under those names.
  • Instructing call centre staff to listen for Irish accents to identify Irish travellers and decline or cancel their bookings.
  • Labelling Irish Travellers and their associates as ‘undesirables’.
  • Maintaining a ‘banned guest’ list, containing people Pontins suspected of being Irish Travellers and their associates like family or friends.
  • Introducing rules requiring guests to appear on the electoral register, a practice found to be discriminatory against Gypsies and Travellers, who are less likely to be on the register.

The practices were originally revealed by a whistleblower, who shared the list of ‘undesirable guests’ with the EHRC in 2020. This led to the equality watchdog entering into a legally binding agreement with Pontins in 2021, to end the practices and prevent further discrimination.

However, the EHRC terminated the agreement in 2022 and launched a formal investigation, after Pontins failed to comply with the agreement’s terms.

‘Flagrant breaches of the Equality Act’

Commenting on the investigation, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Our investigation into Pontins uncovered flagrant breaches of the Equality Act 2010. Their business practices demonstrated shocking overt race discrimination towards Irish Travellers and there was a culture of denial.

“We remain deeply concerned about these discriminatory practices. They were instigated and supported by senior managers and their leadership failed to take any action or accept corporate responsibility.

“Such unlawful and discriminatory behaviour is completely unacceptable, and it must never be tolerated.”

Chris McDonagh, Campaigns Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers, said:

“It is deeply saddening that Irish Traveller people have become so used to hate and prejudice that the Pontins ‘blacklist’ did not come as a surprise.

“Whilst we are certain that Pontins are not the only ones operating such discriminatory policies, we welcome the EHRC’s investigation and commend the whistleblower’s principled stance.

“Everyone deserves to live free from hate and prejudice.”

What Happens Next

The Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation concludes that Pontins must:

  • Apologise to and engage with the Gypsy and Traveller community, acknowledging their corporate responsibility and committing to a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.  
  • Monitor booking cancellations and failures in order to identify future or remaining issues.
  • Review and update their policies and procedures to ensure they are not discriminatory.
  • Develop and deliver training, including equality training around their legal duty to not discriminate.
  • Remove terms that stipulate electoral roll checks.

By law, Pontins must produce an action plan to set out how they intend to meet these recommendations. The action plan is enforceable in court under section 22 of the Equality Act 2006, with criminal sanctions for failure to comply.

Baroness Falkner continued:

“As regulator of the Equality Act, we will be monitoring Pontins closely to ensure they take accountability and make meaningful change happen by implementing our recommendations.  

“We also urge the wider hospitality sector to take heed of these findings and ensure they are not using discriminatory policies and terms that prevent people from accessing services because of their race.”

Pontins are required to produce an action plan by 5pm on Tuesday 9 April 2024.

 

Channel website: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

Original article link: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/media-centre/news/pontins-served-unlawful-act-notice-equality-watchdog-after-race-discrimination

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