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Tattoo's at work - exploring the acceptable

In 2016, Acas released the results of new research which suggests that employers risk missing out on talented young workers because of negative attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace.

Should you consider revising your dress and appearance policy in light of this research?

The Acas study found that, in both the public and private sectors, negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercings from managers and employees can influence the outcome of the recruitment exercise in some workplaces.

Some employers also raised concerns about visible tattoos in relation to the perceived negative attitudes of potential clients or customers.

Almost one in three young people now have tattoos.

Whilst it is entirely acceptable for employers to have dress codes that restrict visible tattoos, Acas suggests that this might mean employers are inadvertently missing out on talented young workers.

Acas has updated its dress code guidance in light of the research and other recent developments, recommending that employers clearly convey what standards are expected from staff in relation to tattoos.

Your dress and appearance policy must not be discriminatory in respect of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, for example, age, disability, religion or belief and sex.  In addition, it should not be stricter for one gender.

Other than that, it is legitimate for you to provide that tattoos and piercings should be kept covered and not be visible.

When reviewing the provisions in your dress and appearance policy on tattoos, consider the needs of your business and the reasoning behind your stance.

  • Are you trying to portray a professional business image?
  • Does an employee’s job role bring them into contact with clients or customers?
  • What is the acceptable norm in your particular industry?

If your stance is based on no more than your own personal preferences, then you might want to think again.

You could, for example, decide to have a stricter rule on visible tattoos and piercings for customer-facing job roles to that for non-customer facing job roles.

Thanks for reading.

Tracy Green
Tracey Murphy
Managing Director
01772 600228
Ready for a conversation?
Published on: 16th February 2017
01772 600228

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