Holiday firm Pontins has come under fire for its working practices after a whistleblower revealed it kept a blacklist of names as part of a system of routine discrimination against Gypsy and Traveller communities.
An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the company had kept a list of mainly Irish surnames, which it would use to refuse bookings by Gypsies and Travellers to its holiday parks.
The list – revealed by the i newspaper – was uploaded to the Pontins intranet under the title “Undesirable Guests”, instructing call handlers that people using these names were “unwelcome”.
The owner of Pontins has now entered into a legal agreement with the human rights watchdog to address the issues raised by the whistleblower – a Pontins employee.
Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited will work with the EHRC to prevent racial discrimination, after the whistleblower revealed the holiday park company was operating a discriminatory bookings policy.
Downing Street condemned the blacklist as “completely unacceptable”, with the 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.”
The EHRC verified the claims and said practices included a list of Irish surnames published on its intranet page, with staff required to block potential customers with those names from booking.
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.
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 To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.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.