Pontins | Holiday company allegedly forced staff to undertake racist actions against customers

Holiday company allegedly forced staff to undertake racist actions against customers

Pontins, a popular holiday resort in the UK, is facing severe backlash and accusations of overt racism after revelations surfaced regarding its alleged discriminatory practices towards Irish Travellers.

An investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) exposed shocking instances of race discrimination, including the creation of a blacklist containing common Irish surnames labelled as "undesirable guests."

The EHRC's findings revealed that Pontins staff were instructed to decline or cancel bookings made under these names, with call centre employees even being directed to listen for Irish accents to identify potential Traveller guests and subsequently deny their bookings.

Additionally, a banned guest list was discovered, containing individuals suspected of being Irish Travellers and their acquaintances.

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Pontins implemented rules mandating that guests appear on the electoral register, a practice deemed discriminatory against Travellers who are less likely to be registered.

Despite entering into a legally binding agreement with the EHRC in 2021 to cease such practices, Pontins failed to comply, prompting the termination of the agreement and the initiation of a formal investigation.

The EHRC's inquiry concluded with Pontins being served an unlawful act notice, compelling the company to produce an action plan addressing the commission's recommendations.

These include issuing apologies to and engaging with the Gypsy and Traveller community, monitoring booking cancellations, removing discriminatory terms and implementing comprehensive training on equality and non-discrimination.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the EHRC, condemned Pontins' actions as "flagrant breaches" of the Equality Act 2010, highlighting a corporate culture of denial and a failure of leadership to take responsibility. She emphasised that such discriminatory behaviour is “intolerable and must be met with swift and decisive action”.

Pontins responded to the allegations by acknowledging the incidents as "historic issues" predating 2018, expressing apologies to those affected, and affirming a commitment to ongoing compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

However, concerns remain regarding the ethical implications of forcing staff to engage in racist acts as part of company policy.

For HR professionals, this case underscores the importance of fostering inclusive workplaces and ensuring adherence to anti-discrimination laws.
HR departments play a crucial role in developing policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, while also providing training and support to employees to uphold these principles.

Employers must not only have robust anti-discrimination policies in place, but also cultivate a culture where employees feel empowered to raise concerns about discriminatory practices without fear of retaliation.

Addressing systemic racism requires proactive measures at all levels of an organisation, including accountability for senior management and leadership.

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