Race discrimination means Pontins is served unlawful act notice

Holiday Park operator Pontins has been served by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with an unlawful act notice, after they were investigated for race discrimination. The investigation revealed multiple acts of race discrimination against Irish Travellers.

Pontins, which is owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey blatantly committed several breaches in the Equality Act. One example was that Staff created a list of Irish surnames and labelled them as undesirable guests. Staff were instructed to decline or cancel bookings which had been made under those names.

In other instances Pontins instructed staff to listen for Irish accents when answering the telephones, and decline their bookings, as they were assumed to be ‘undesirable.’

The investigation went on to show that Pontins had introduced a rule that any guest should be on the electoral register. This is a discriminatory practise against gypsies and travellers as they are unlikely to be on any electoral roll.

A whistleblower shared the information about the undesirable guests with the EHRC in 2020 and the following year the equality watchdog came to an agreement with Pontins that they would end the practises and thus prevent any further race discrimination.

After Pontins failed to comply with the terms of the agreement, the EHRC terminated it and launched a formal investigation.

EHRC chairwoman, Baroness Kishwer Falkner stated that the investigation into Pontins had revealed flagrant breaches of the Equality Act 2010. Additionally, Pontins business practises showed a shocking amount of race discrimination towards Irish Travellers, along with a culture of denial.

Baroness Falkner said that they ‘remain deeply concerned about the ongoing discriminatory practises. Not only were they instigated and supported by senior managers, the leaders failed to take any action or accept any responsibility.’

‘Unlawful and discriminatory behaviour like this is totally unacceptable and must never be tolerated.’

The report from the EHRC said that Pontins had not fully complied with the action plan or the legal agreement. Indeed, they had shown a lack of genuine engagement in the entire process.  

Pontins insisted that the list of names was never used for discriminatory purposes, rather that it was used following an incident at the Southport resort in April 2015. In their own investigation and report which they submitted during the legal agreement, they refused to acknowledge that they had kept the list for discriminating against Irish guests.

However, the latest representation in the investigation read that Pontins acknowledged that the list was discriminatory.

The EHRC investigation made some points which Pontin needs to address, namely:

  • Monitor all booking cancellations so that they can identify issues
  • Review and update all their own policies and ensure that they are not discriminatory
  • Remove terms that stipulate electoral roll checks
  • Apologise to the Gypsy and Traveller community by acknowledging corporate responsibility
  • Commit to a zero tolerance approach to race discrimination
  • Develop a new training program for all staff at Pontins, ensuring equality training in included
  • Ensure that all staff are kept informed about their legal duty to not discriminate 

Campaigns office at Friends, Families and Travellers, Mr Chris McDonagh, commented that it was deeply saddening to see how Irish Traveller people have become used to prejudice and hate, to the extent that the blacklist from Pontins did not come as a surprise.

Mr McDonagh said that whilst they were certain that several other companies also operated such discriminatory policies, they welcomed the investigation carried out by the EHRC. He also commended the principled stance of the whistleblower. 

‘Everyone deserves to live free from hate and prejudice.’

According to the law, Pontins will have to produce their new action plan by 9th April 2024. The plan needs to show how they intend to meet the recommendations.

Under section 22 of the Equality Act 2006, the plan is enforceable in a court, with criminal sanctions should they fail to comply.

A spokesperson from Britannia Jinky Jersey said that the company is in the process of reviewing the unlawful act notice along with the investigation report from the EHRC.

The spokesperson commented that the incidents related to a specific call centre and took place before 2018. The office had since closed and most of the staff who had worked there had left Pontins.

They apologised to all people who may have been affected and assured guests that Pontins is committed to ensuring ongoing compliance with the Equality Act 2010.


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