By Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
The owner of holiday park company Pontins has entered into a legal agreement with the UK human rights watchdog after a whistleblower revealed it was using an “undesirable guests” list to exclude Gypsies and Travellers.
Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited is working with the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to prevent racial discrimination after a Pontins employee said the company was operating a discriminatory bookings policy.
The EHRC verified the claims and said practices included a list of common Irish surnames published on its intranet page, with staff required to block potential customers with those names from booking.
Wow - this is the list of surnames that staff at British holiday park company Pontins were told to exclude from bookings.
"We do not want these guests on our parks" the blacklist on the company's intranet read. https://t.co/T5tjgznqUs
Scoop by @ChrisGreenNews and @cahalmilmo pic.twitter.com/4fd1r45fcP
— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) March 2, 2021
It said staff monitored calls and refused or cancelled bookings made by people with an Irish accent or surname, and Pontins’ commercial vehicle policy excluded Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.
By declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group, Pontins was “directly discriminating on the basis of race” and breached the 2010 Equality Act, the EHRC said.
Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited said it was working to enhance its staff training and procedures to further promote equality throughout the business.
Downing Street condemned the blacklist as “completely unacceptable”, with the British prime minister’s official spokesman saying: “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.”
Alastair Pringle, EHRC executive director, 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 To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.
“It is right to challenge such practices and any business that believes this is acceptable should think again before they find themselves facing legal action.
“We will continue to work with Pontins and Britannia Jinky Jersey to ensure that our agreement is adhered to and its practices improve.”
A spokesperson from Britannia Jinky Jersey 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.”
As part of the agreement, Pontins must investigate the “undesirable guests” list, take appropriate action and ensure lessons are learned.
It must commission a review into its booking and commercial vehicle policy and consider any recommendations, and provide equality and diversity training for staff each year.
If it does not adhere to these terms, the EHRC can launch a full investigation.