UK holiday firm Pontins used Irish surname blacklist to stop bookings
Names on the list included Boylan, Delaney, Murphy and O'Reilly.
UK holiday park operator Pontins has committed to changing its working practices and culture after using a blacklist of Irish surnames to block bookings.
In February last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Britain received information from a whistleblower who was employed by Pontins, alleging the company operated a discriminatory booking policy that excluded Gypsies and Travellers.
According to the commission, 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 its Commercial Vehicles policy to exclude Gypsies and Travellers from its holiday parks.
The list of Irish surnames blacklisted, revealed by publication i, included 40 names.
Some examples were the surnames Boylan, Connors, Delaney, Horan, McDonagh, Murphy, Nolan and O'Reilly.
In reponse to the list, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris wrote on Twitter: "This both angers and saddens me. As a child, my family and I holidayed in Pontins many times.
"Childhood memories of a happy place and good times all now replaced by a sense of disgust that such prejudice would exist. Had hoped those days were gone."
The EHRC said in a statement: "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."
The commission revealed it had signed a legally binding agreement with Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, which owns Pontins, to prevent racial discrimination in the future.
The agreement requires Pontins 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 is in place from 22 February 2021 with the EHRC monitoring it to make sure the agreed actions are completed.
Alastair Pringle, Executive Director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “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. 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.”
Meanwhile, 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.”