Stay sharp on employment issues relating to tattoos and piercings

News Article

In recent years there has been a sharp rise in the popularity of tattoos and body piercings. It is estimated that around one in five British people now have a tattoo. The most ‘inked’ proportion of the population are 30 to 39-year-olds, with more than a third admitting to having a tattoo, according to one survey.

One in ten people in the UK are thought to have a piercing somewhere other than their earlobe. The practice is particularly popular amongst women aged 16 to 24, with research suggesting almost a half (46 per cent) of those surveyed have a non-earlobe piercing.

Whilst visible body tattoos and pierced eyebrows may fulfil dress code requirements for tattoo parlour workers, many employers are unsure whether they meet dress code and grooming policies in the average office.

As a result, Acas has now published guidance on the topic to assist HR professionals. Lara Murray, an employment law and health and safety expert with Palmers, said: “Some organisations may take the view that visible tattoos and piercings do not reflect the corporate image they are trying to project. As a result they may be tempted to ask workers to remove piercings or cover tattoos in the workplace.

“However, guidance issued by Acas urges employers to ‘carefully consider’ the reason behind imposing a rule – as they should be able to justify ‘sound business reasons’ for it.

“There might, for example, be perfectly reasonable logic behind a decision to impose a ban, such as removing dangling or protruding piercings when operating factory machinery.

“It is important to bear in mind that any employment dress code must apply equally to men and women. Whilst it is permissible to have different requirements, the policy should not amount to unlawful discrimination.

“Any amendments to an existing dress code policy need to be properly communicated and Acas recommends that employers should consult with employees regarding any changes. Once an agreement has been reached, it should be written down in a formal policy and all staff should be made aware of the decision so that they fully understand what standards are expected from them.”

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