Employers urged to relax views on tattoos in workplace

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New research from ACAS suggests that employers are losing out on talented young employees, because they are worried about employing people with visible tattoos.

The research, which looked into employee perceptions, dress codes and appearance at work, focused on various aspects of employee appearance.

The findings suggest that young people are particularly affected given the fact that almost one in three young people have a tattoo. The research also highlighted that negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercings from employers influences the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplaces.

The study found that some fellow employees also took a dim view of tattooed colleagues, with suggestions that customers would not have confidence in the professionalism of a person with a visible tattoo.

In its response to the research, ACAS says employers could be drastically reducing the pool of potential recruits because so many young people now have tattoos and believes that employers should be thinking about relaxing dress codes in general. ACAS has updated its dress code guidance in light of the research and latest developments.

Andrew Timming from St Andrews University, who has researched the role of tattoos in hiring practices, says a change in attitudes is inevitable.

“There’s a tidal wave of young people with tattoos these days and they’re not always going to be young. Employers are going to have to accept that they’re integral to the fabric of society and accept that they may potentially have a place at work.”

Lara Murray, an employment law expert with Palmers said: “Currently the law does not protect an employee from being discriminated against because they have visible tattoos or piercings.

“Employers may insist that tattoos are covered up in the workplace and can also specify the removal of piercings, which may also exist for health and safety reasons. However, an employer’s dress code must not be discriminatory in respect of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, so if a dress code relating to tattoos and piercings is put in place, it should apply to men and women equally.”

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