Pontins will change its working practices after a whistle-blower revealed the holiday park operator had a list of Irish surnames to screen out bookings from Gypsies and Travellers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigated the company after being contacted by an employee of Pontins in February 2020.

Now the owner of Pontins, Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, has signed a legally binding agreement with EHRC to prevent racial discrimination after the discriminatory practices came to light, including an ‘undesirable guest list’.

The EHRC said the whistleblower alerted the commission to “a discriminatory booking policy that excluded Gypsies and Travellers”.

It said: “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 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.

Alastair Pringle, EHRC executive director, said: “It is hard not to draw comparisons with an ‘undesirable guests’ list and the signs displayed in hotel windows 50 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 To say that such policies are outdated is an understatement.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.”

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.”

Pontins will investigate the ‘Undesirable guest’ list and review policies to ensure they are not discriminatory.

It will provide enhanced equality law training for human resources staff and senior managers; equality and diversity training for all customer-facing staff; and appoint ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champions’ across the organisation.

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