​Pontins Faces Legal Action Over Discrimination Against Irish Travellers

​Pontins Faces Legal Action Over Discrimination Against Irish Travellers

Posted by Emily on 15th Feb 2024

Pontins has been issued an unlawful act notice by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for engaging in discriminatory practices against Irish Travellers. The EHRC's investigation revealed that the holiday park operator, owned by Britannia Hotels' subsidiary Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, violated the Equality Act by creating a "blacklist" of common Irish surnames, effectively banning individuals with these surnames from booking holidays at their parks.

Staff at Pontins were instructed to decline bookings from guests with these surnames and to listen for Irish accents over the phone to identify and exclude Irish Travellers. Additionally, a "banned guest" list was maintained, targeting suspected Irish Travellers and their connections. The company also imposed a policy requiring guests to be listed on the electoral register, disproportionately affecting Travellers.

The discriminatory policies came to light in 2020, thanks to a whistleblower who exposed the "undesirable guests" list to the EHRC. Following this, a legally binding agreement was made with Pontins in 2021 to cease these practices. However, Pontins' failure to adhere to the agreement led to its termination in 2022 and a formal investigation by the EHRC.

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Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the EHRC, criticised Pontins for a "culture of denial" regarding its discriminatory actions, which were supported by senior management. The EHRC has recommended that Pontins apologise to the affected communities, remove electoral roll checks, and adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination.

Chris McDonagh of Friends, Families and Travellers expressed sadness over the normalisation of hate against Irish Travellers, praising the whistleblower and the EHRC's efforts to address the issue.

In recent months, Pontins has closed three locations, with only two remaining operational. Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited has reviewed the EHRC's findings, acknowledging the incidents predating 2018 and affirming their commitment to Equality Act compliance.

We encourage our readers to share their thoughts and comments on this significant issue below.

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