Whistleblowing and our investigation into Pontins

Published: 15 February 2024

What is whistleblowing?

Our investigation into Pontins started after one of their employees ‘blew the whistle’ on discriminatory practices they had witnessed.

Whistleblowing is when a worker shares information about wrongdoing in the workplace. Several different areas are covered by whistleblowing law. Read more about these on our page about whistleblowing.

Complaints about personal grievances, like a dispute between a member of staff and their line manager, are not covered by whistleblowing law. However, they might be if disclosing what happened would be in the public interest.

We are the prescribed body for whistleblowing about breaches of equality or human rights law. This means that workers can report any complaints about wrongdoing relating to these areas of the law to us.

Read our latest whistleblowing report here.

Whistleblowing and the Pontins investigation

The actions of the whistleblower at Pontins were crucial for kickstarting our investigation. In March 2020, a former employee got in touch to provide us with a copy of an ‘Undesirable Guest List’. Pontins had been using this list, which had over 40 surnames of Irish origin, to discriminate against prospective Traveller guests.

The whistleblower shared this information with our dedicated whistleblowing team. When someone reports a whistleblowing concern, they decide which disclosures should be passed to our enforcement team. They then consider whether to take action.

When we are deciding which disclosures need further action, we consider several factors, including:

  • the scale and seriousness of the problem
  • the potential impact we can have

In the case of the Pontins disclosure, we decided that it was serious enough to need further action from us.

Why did we then decide to investigate?

Pontins did not meet the terms of the legal agreement, or the action plan. We suspected that it may have been continuing to discriminate against the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

In February 2022, we ended the legal agreement and started our investigation.

Why is whistleblowing important?

As the team that investigated Pontins, we have seen the real impact of whistleblowing. If the whistleblower had not shared their evidence with us, it is unlikely that we would have uncovered the scale and seriousness of the discrimination. During our investigation, we also received information from further whistleblowers, and prospective guests. We are grateful to everyone who contributed.

We know that it can be difficult for whistleblowers to speak up. People who expose wrongdoing at work have to cope with the fear of losing their job. That is why there are clear laws to prevent whistleblowers from being victimised.

If you have a whistleblowing concern, report it to us here.

The impact of the Pontins investigation

We hope this report communicates a strong message that discrimination can never be tolerated. We will take action against it. This may include launching an investigation.

The report also highlights the discrimination that Gypsies and Travellers still face today. We hope this investigation represents a key step forward in making discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers unacceptable in Great Britain.