Recent research by Acas and Kings College, which explored employer perceptions on staff appearance at work found that visible body modifications such as piercings or tattoos are still likely to be frowned upon in certain areas of the service sector with some employers being worried that potential customers may be put off.
Certainly tattoos used to be considered part of a counterculture but today they have gained wider social acceptance – more and more people, men and women alike, have them and it is understood that a third of young people in the UK have tattoos.
So companies could be missing out on talented staff due to their outdated attitudes towards people who have a tattoo Acas states. They are urging firms to change their attitudes and relax their dress codes. Stephen Williams, Acas Head of Equality commented that “Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law as appropriate and the needs of the business, not managers’ personal preferences.”
He further added that “While it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers.”
But what I would ask is whether having a tattoo or not has any relevance on the individual’s ability to do their job? Could there be legitimate resentment from employees with tattoos who may be judged purely upon their appearance rather than on the skills and attributes which they could bring to the business?
In an interview with the Sunday Times Margaret Mountford, the former right- hand woman of Lord Sugar recently warned that tattoos were a real problem for British young people, seriously decreasing their chances of getting a job. Indeed last year Charlotte Tumilty a trainee teacher was sent home on her first day of work at a Catholic School when staff objected to her tattoos. Her case prompted debate about whether anti-tattoo discrimination should be made illegal. At the moment under UK law workers have no protection under discrimination legislation for having a tattoo.
So what would I suggest to an employer :
- Please keep an open mind- just because someone has a tattoo do not discount them without taking a proper look at their skills. If a candidate has got to interview stage then you must have seen something in their CV.
- Outline clear policies on what is and isn’t allowed and let staff know how these decisions have been reached.
- Talk to employees about their body art as open communication is the best way forward.
Embracing your workforce whether they are tattooed or not could lead to a more relaxed atmosphere and increase productivity levels.
At Mitchells Roberton we have staff with tattoos and I am one of them.
If you would like to discuss any employment law matter, please contact Hugh Grant (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Paul Neilly (email@example.com) or telephone 0141 552 3422. http://www.mitchells-roberton.co.uk