Agreement with Pontins to prevent racial discrimination

Case name: Pontins Section 23 Agreement

Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, owner of Pontins, signed a legally binding agreement with us to prevent racial discrimination after we became aware of discriminatory practices, including an ‘undesirable guest list’, being used by the organisation.

Legal issue

Does Pontins’ booking policy discriminate against Gypsies and Travellers?

Background

In February 2020 we received information from a whistle-blower, employed by holiday company Pontins, alleging that the company operated a discriminatory booking policy which excluded Gypsies and Travellers.

The discriminatory practices included:

  • monitoring calls within its contact centre and refusing or cancelling any bookings that were made by people with an Irish accent or surname;
  • a list of Irish surnames, published on its intranet page, titled ‘undesirable guests’ which required staff to block any potential customers with those names from booking; and
  • using a policy which banned holiday-makers from arriving in commercial vehicles to exclude Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.

Why we were involved

We are a prescribed body for whistleblowing about breaches of equality or human rights law.

This means that workers who are concerned that their employer is committing breaches of equality and human rights law can report their concerns to us. More information about whistleblowing can be found on our website.

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 Equality Act 2010.

We took enforcement action against Pontins as part of our work to ensure that strong equality and human rights laws protect people. This comes under our Core Aim, as part of our 2019-2022 Strategic Plan

What we did

We contacted Britannia Jinksy Jersey Limited, owner of Pontins, with evidence from the whistleblower and explained that we were considering an investigation of their practices, using our powers under Section 20 of the Equality Act 2006.

Britannia Jinksy Jersey Ltd agreed to work with us to review and amend their practices and have now signed a legally-binding agreement with us.

What happened

Britannia Jinksy Jersey Ltd, signed a legally binding agreement which requires it to:

  • Conduct an investigation into the ‘Undesirable guest’ list to ensure appropriate action is taken within the organisation and that lessons are learned;
  • Commission a review of its current intelligence system, booking policies and commercial vehicle policy to ensure they are not operating in a discriminatory way, and consider any recommendations;
  • Provide enhanced training on equality law for staff in its Human Resources team and members of Senior Management;
  • Provide training on equality and diversity for all customer facing staff on an annual basis;
  • Appoint Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champions across the organisation.

The agreement was signed on 22 February 2021 and will be monitored by us to make sure the agreed actions are completed.

If Pontins does not adhere to the terms of the agreement, we have the power to launch a full investigation under section 20 of the Equality Act 2006.

Who will benefit and how

It is hard not to draw comparisons with an ‘undesirable guests' list and the signs displayed in hotel windows fifty years ago, explicitly barring Irish people and Black people. Banning people from services based on their race is discrimination and is unlawful.

We had received complaints about about cancelled holiday booking from Gypsies and Travellers for years; 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.

Because of this agreement, Gypsy/Roma/Traveller or Irish people should no longer face difficulty booking a holiday with Pontins.

Date of outcome

“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.”

Spokesperson from Britannia Jinky Jersey

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