Friday, 29 June 2018 10:59

The Sun and Tattoos are Out

With the current spell of hot weather set to continue, there has been the usual abundance of articles on the Internet discussing what steps to take to keep the workplace a comfortable and productive place to be, and how to maintain the welfare of employees during a heatwave. We echo these messages of course, but one point that gets overlooked is the effect of a relaxed dress code during a hot spell and the consequent exposure of tattoos that may not fit with a company dress code policy.

Statistics are varied but some reports say that 30% of people in the UK between 16 and 44 have at least one tattoo. And shorter sleeves, skirts and shorts may reveal body art amongst the workforce that employers are uncomfortable being on show; particularly in customer-facing positions.

It’s reasonable for a business to maintain that its representatives present themselves to a certain standard. Most of us would expect sales or showroom staff for example to wear a business suit and perhaps a tie or matching skirt and jacket. It would be equally understandable then for an employer to insist that tattoos remain covered.

An organisation’s position on tattoos will probably be a cultural one, and whilst the proliferation of tattoos may make them more socially acceptable in some circles, their visibility will still fall under a company’s dress code. Therefore, it’s important that general standards of personal presentation are clearly communicated to employees.

To date, we haven’t heard of any cases where individuals claim to have been discriminated against because they have a tattoo. We’re not aware of any religious or cultural reasons why that might ever be the case. However studies and anecdotes do indicate that people with visible tattoos find it more difficult to find work.

With no signs that the fashion for tattoos is likely to change anytime soon, rejecting potential employees because they have a tattoo may significantly reduce the talent pool available to fill a position. We always advocate that you should employ the most suitable person for the job so it may be more realistic to establish a compromise or an acceptable level of body art. For example, tattoos that can be hidden by long sleeves are acceptable whereas facial tattoos or obscenities are not.

It’s worth noting that if an existing tattoo is an acceptable reason not to employ then by the same measure, a new tattoo could be an acceptable reason to dismiss. An alcohol fuelled stag or hen weekend that results in an impulsive tattoo could have more than one reason to be the source of some regret. Again, this is a good reason to have a clearly communicated dress code policy.

A ban on visible tattoos could be enforced across a workforce regardless of whether or not staff are customer facing, but as usual consistency is key. It would be wrong to allow men to have them on show for example but not allow the same for women. Or for lenience to be shown to younger members of staff but older employees told to cover up.

It’s a subjective topic so for more help and support you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 2259 times Last modified on Friday, 29 June 2018 13:14


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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