Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Pontins’ ‘undesirable guest list’ allegedly discriminates Gypsies and travellers

Britain's equality watchdog has launched an investigation into allegations that Pontins allegedly discriminated against Gypsies and travellers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to investigate whether or not the firm used an "undesirable guest list".

The list, which was published on the staff intranet, was first revealed by a whistleblower last year and included Irish surnames which staff should allegedly refuse reservations to.

The whistleblower also claimed that staff monitored calls and also refused or cancelled bookings made by people with an Irish accent.

Pontins' commercial vehicle policy was also accused of excluding Gypsies and travellers from its holiday parks.

The EHRC will investigate whether the bookings policy broke any laws, as declining to provide services to guests because they are of a certain race or ethnic group is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, which recognises Gypsies and Travellers as a distinct racial group.

The watchdog said it had opened the formal investigation, as it was "not satisfied that Pontins was taking the required steps to prevent unlawful discrimination from occurring".

The probe will involve looking at whether or not the business broke laws relating to the Equality Act, by discriminating against Gypsy and traveller guests through its booking policies and record-keeping.

EHRC CEO Marcial Boo said: "We are concerned that Pontins may have illegally denied Gypsy and Traveller families the simple pleasure of a holiday. Any business that refuses to provide services to guests due to their race or ethnic group is likely to be breaking equality law.

“We signed a legally binding agreement with Pontins last year. We expected that to address our concerns about discriminatory behaviour. The company’s failure to comply has left us with no choice but to use stronger enforcement powers to investigate further.

“The EHRC will continue to use all legal powers at its disposal to ensure that no one experiences racism, whether at a holiday park or elsewhere, simply because of their name, ethnicity or the community they belong to.”

The chief executive of the Traveller Movement, Yvonne MacNamara, welcomed the formal investigation and said Pontins had been set “an extremely low bar” in its agreement with the EHRC.

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She said: “All they had to do was not commit unlawful acts of discrimination when providing services, and to take concrete steps to ensure that discrimination did not happen in the future.

“That the human rights regulator is not satisfied that these very simple requirements have been adhered to is a damning indictment of the corporate culture and senior management at Pontins, which has failed not just GRT communities, but also rank and file employees.

“Romany Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people are entitled to access the same services as everybody else, and we hope this investigation serves as a timely reminder to other businesses that discrimination will not go unnoticed.”

The investigation is expected to take months.

The Daily Star has approached Pontins for comment.

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