August 1, 2019

Does Tattoo Bias Mean Employers Are Missing Out on Talented Young Workers?

You have all the relevant skills and experience the hiring manager is looking for. Having submitted your CV, you pass the telephone interview with flying colours and the business invites you for a face-to-face interview. You turn up for your interview fully prepped and in your best attire. But the second you arrive there’s a problem. You have visible tattoos.

In 2016, ACAS published research on dress codes which found that employers were reluctant to hire applicants with visible tattoos. With almost one in three young people having a tattoo, this negative attitude towards tattoos could mean that businesses are missing out on top talent.

Are employers missing out on a significant number of skilled workers?

It’s understandable that companies want to promote a professional image through their workforce. However, employers that adopt an unreasonably strict policy on visible tattoos and body art risk losing out on a substantial number of skilled workers.

Turning up to work or a job interview with an offensive facial tattoo would rightfully be frowned upon. It’s likely to hinder an individual’s chances of retaining or securing a job.

However, taking a more lenient approach to visible tattoos and body art in general could be beneficial for businesses. Especially with unemployment at its lowest level for fifty years and the recruitment challenges that surround this.

Have attitudes towards tattoos shifted since ACAS conducted their research in 2016?

 Over the last three years, the number of people with a tattoo has almost certainly risen. It’s also encouraging to see that employers are becoming more tolerant of visible tattoos.

Last year, London’s Metropolitan Police relaxed its tattoo policy. They stated that tattoos would now be considered on a “case by case basis” and candidates would no longer be immediately rejected. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said the old policy had deterred new applicants with 10% being rejected purely because they had tattoos. Under the relaxed policy even full-sleeve arm tattoos would be permitted providing they’re not offensive.

What is the legal position on tattoos in the workplace?

Body art is not considered a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 apart from religious markings.

Furthermore, in certain circumstances and where there are no contentious issues to consider (as well as considering an employees’ length of service), employers could consider visible body art as a valid reason to dismiss an existing employee, especially if they are frequently dealing with customers.

John Palmer from Acas commented that having a tattoo should “never be a reason to refuse someone a job”.

“But you might need to be able to cover or hide a tattoo where an employer has a legitimate need for a dress code requiring this.”

Palmer advises individuals who are considering getting a tattoo that they can’t or won’t cover up, to talk to your manager first.

“Many employers are now reconsidering their policies,” Mr Palmer says.

Next Steps

It’s important to remember that when drafting or updating a dress code, it is not discriminatory in terms of sex, age, disability and sexual orientation etc. Moorepay customers who would like advice on dress code policies should contact the advice line on 0345 073 0240.

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About the author

Kyle Williams

About the author

Kyle Williams

Kyle has over six years’ experience in providing HR and Employment Law advice, gained within various industries including facilities management, retail and the professional services sector. CIPD qualified, Kyle has a wealth of knowledge and a proven ability through professional and personal skills to support businesses and organisations of all sizes and sectors, by providing accurate and legislative employment law advice and guidance.

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