Pontins served ‘unlawful act notice’ over discrimination against Irish Travellers

Investigation found staff labelled list of Irish surnames as ‘undesirable guests’ and ‘banned guest’ list

The holiday park operator Pontins has been served with an “unlawful act notice” after an investigation by Britain’s equality watchdog found multiple instances of race discrimination against Irish Travellers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found the operator, which is owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd, committed several clear breaches of the Equality Act.

The investigation found that staff at the operator labelled a list of common Irish surnames as “undesirable guests” and instructed staff to decline or cancel bookings made under those names.

The EHRC also found staff had created a “banned guest” list which contained the names of people Pontins suspected to be Irish Travellers and their friends or family.


The unlawful act notice will require the holiday operator by law to produce an action plan to address how they will meet the equality watchdog’s recommendations. If they fail to do so by early April this year, the operator could face criminal sanctions.

Kishwer Falkner, chair of the EHRC, said their investigation “uncovered flagrant breaches of the Equality Act”.

She said: “Their business practices demonstrated shocking overt race discrimination towards Irish Travellers and there was a culture of denial. We remain deeply concerned about these discriminatory practices. They were instigated and supported by senior managers and their leadership failed to take any action or accept corporate responsibility.”

The watchdog’s list of recommendations to Pontins includes an apology and engagement with the Gypsy and Traveller communities, the delivery of equality training and the monitoring of booking cancellations to identify issues.

Ms Falkner said: “As regulator of the Equality Act, we will be monitoring Pontins closely to ensure they take accountability and make meaningful change happen by implementing our recommendations.”

The investigation by the EHRC also found that call centre staff had been instructed to decline or cancel bookings for people who had Irish accents.

Pontins had also introduced rules requiring guests to appear on the electoral register. This was deemed discriminatory against Gypsies and Travellers as such communities are less likely to be on the register, said the EHRC.

Chris McDonagh, the campaigns officer at Friends, Families and Travellers, said: “It is deeply saddening that Irish Traveller people have become so used to hate and prejudice that the Pontins ‘blacklist’ did not come as a surprise.

“While we are certain that Pontins are not the only ones operating such discriminatory policies, we welcome the EHRC’s investigation and commend the whistle-blower’s principled stance. Everyone deserves to live free from hate and prejudice.”

The EHRC entered into a legally binding agreement with Pontins to tackle discrimination in 2021 after a whistleblower revealed the “undesirable guest” list to the watchdog in 2020.

However, the watchdog was forced to launch a formal investigation in 2022 after Pontins failed to comply with the terms of the agreement. The operator is now required to produce an action plan by April 9th, 2024.

Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd said in a statement: “We are in the process of reviewing the unlawful act notice and investigation report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“The specific incidents reported by the EHRC are historic issues predating 2018. The call centre where the incidents took place has closed and the majority of the staff involved have now left Pontins.

“We apologise to all who may have been affected. Pontins is committed to ensuring ongoing compliance with the Equality Act 2010.” – Guardian