Can you have tattoos at the workplace?
People have debated the answer to this question for years. Not one person has a definite answer. It is down to each individual business whether tattoos are a factor they consider when employing.
There is no denying that getting inked has become more acceptable in recent years. But, even though tattoos have become more popular, employers remain hesitant about allowing employees to have tattoos visible when at work. Many businesses still consider having a tattoo at the workplace is unacceptable.
Laws on Tattoos at the Workplace
Tattoos in the workplace is a difficult topic for a business to approach and can be a taboo subject to speak about. Having body art which the general public can see could produce a negative business image. But can employers legally ask employees to keep their tattoos out of sight when at work?
There is no law about tattoos. It’s well within your rights to provide rules on how to dress, act and look inside the office. Companies should use their own discretion whether they ask individuals to cover tattoos.
Legally Banning Tattoos
Body art is not considered a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Thus, employers are free to base their hiring decisions on this aspect alone. Employers can install their own rules on tattoos at the workplace. If the company wants to impose a ban on them, they can. This also means they can dismiss existing employees.
Yet, refusing to hire a person who has tattoos can be cause for discriminatory action. If there is no provision in your dress code against it, you cannot legally turn down a candidate. To avoid this predicament, you should review your company dress code policy.
Tattoos in Dress Code Policy
The rules about tattoos should be clear in the dress code policy. If there is no dress code in place, then you should consider introducing one. In the policy you can include information about what employees can and cannot wear and their overall appearance at work.
The key for employers is to have a written policy that employees are required to read and sign. They should then to enforce that policy consistently. That way, employees are not able to start discriminatory action. The policies should be on sound judgement that is in the best interest of the business.
Opinions of Tattoos at the Workplace
Attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace have changed. It is quite common to see a range of professionals with body art. Employers want to recruit a diverse workforce ensuring they get the best talent. So many businesses nowadays have a relaxed stance on tattoos. But having a tattoo can still have a negative impact on an individual’s chance of employment.
A staggering 88% of businesses said that having a tattoo could limit someone’s career progression. On top of that, 41% admitted to rejecting a suitable candidate because they had a visible tattoo. See The Guardian's Ink-sulting: why tattoos shouldn't limit your career prospects article.
Why are tattoos at the workplace not allowed?
There are several reasons why companies do not allow tattoos at the workplace:
A lot of tattoos are not even visible with most work attire. What they mean is the candidate will appear to be unprofessional because of the stigma associated with tattoos. Tattoos do not change a person’s qualifications, character or professionalism.
As long as consumers felt they receive the same quality and pricing; surly they won’t care about staff with tattoos at the workplace?
There is an argument that covering tattoos for work is a necessary for health precaution. This is because in the food industry people are concerned about the health of tattoos. A tattoo should be treated like an open wound and therefore any health and safety measures should be correctly dealt with.
Allowing tattoos at work doesn't mean employers have to allow tattoos that contain violence, foul language or nudity. As mentioned previously, businesses can allow employees to have tattoos if they are not offensive.
Tattoos are not distracting. They are artwork, but you'll never find anyone being less productive because they saw or have a tattoo.
A lot of businesses state that a tattoo “is not the image we want for our company.” This is an outdated association which relates tattoos to gangs and bikers. There is now a wider social acceptance and there is generally no judgement on having tattoos.
Getting a Job with a Tattoo
A lot of businesses are less picky about the matter. In the dress code policy, they’ll include a rule such as: “Depictions of violence, foul language, nudity, or symbolism that may be considered offensive must be covered during working hours.”
If you are utilising the services of a recruitment agency, your consultant should tell you what the company culture is like. They should tell you whether there is a dress policy in place and how to present yourself at interview.
If you have a tattoo, our interview advice is still the same. You need to make an impression within seconds of meeting your interviewer. No matter what, go wearing business dress (unless the company has a relaxed dress code).
Experience Over Appearance
Some sectors such as the airline industry are particularly strict on the matter. Customer facing roles are more likely to have non-tattooed staff.
Having body ink has absolutely nothing to do with your work ethic or your level of experience. The last thing you want to do is reject the perfect candidate - someone who could have a major positive impact on your business - because they are tattooed.
Although employers could turn down candidates because the tattoos do not fit in with the company dress code policy, they should consider the detrimental effect it may have. The business could lose out on highly skilled and valued members of staff just because of some artwork.