PONTINS is under fire for discriminating against customers with certain Irish surnames. It used the surnames to stop people with those names from making bookings for its holiday parks, as those surnames are common with Gypsies and Travellers. The names, 40 in all, included Boyle, Keefe, Gallagher, O’Donnell, McGuiness, Murphy and O’Reilly.
Boris Johnston has described the practice of preventing people from making holiday bookings based on their surname was “completely unacceptable.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that the investigation was started after it was contacted by a whistle-blower.
The EHRC said that it had uncovered that Pontins, which runs the the Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park amongst others, had put the list on its intranet site.
Staff then cancelled bookings made by people with certain surnames or with Irish accents. Travellers and Gypsies were also excluded from Pontins’ due to their commercial vehicle policy.
Alastair Pringle, executive director at EHRC, 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 To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.”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.”
Maria Chadwick, specialist in discrimination law at Stephensons Solicitors: “It is clear that this policy of gatekeeping guests based on such criteria is both unlawful and a direct breach of the 2010 Equality Act. These outdated practices are often not unique, and it is encouraging that the EHRC has undertaken such an investigation and firm stance. The hope will be that by drawing attention to these discriminatory practices, service providers will take decisive action to root out these policies once and for all.”
Pontins has apologised, and said it will make changes to its policies.
The Pontins owner said it would “enhance staff training and procedures” at the firm, and would take measures “to promote equality throughout its business”.
As part of an agreement with the government, 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.
The EHRC started a probe in February 2020 after complaints from the whistle-blower and Travellers. Its Pontins agreement is binding from 22 February 2021.