Thursday, 14 July 2022 21:37

Tattoos Allowed

In the current spell of warm weather, and with a prediction that temperatures could reach potentially dangerous levels, you’ve probably already taken steps to ensure the comfort and safety of your employees. Especially if you read our blog about thermal comfort from a few weeks ago.

If you’ve introduced a relaxation of your dress code during the hot weather, then your employees are probably exposing more skin, and consequently more tattoos.

Historically, employers have wielded some control over the exposure of tattoos, and rules about what is acceptable would fall under the organisation’s dress code policy. However, the sheer prevalence of individuals partaking of some permanent body art over recent years has led to something of a rethink by some employers.

Just last month, Virgin Atlantic took the decision to lift its ban on visible tattoos for cabin crew. The move, designed to promote the company’s new ethos of promoting inclusion and ‘championing individuality’, resulted in a 522% increase in searches for cabin-crew jobs with the airline on 1st June, the day the ban was officially lifted.

Statistics vary but some reports say that 30% of people in the UK between 16 and 44 have at least one tattoo. With no signs that the fashion for tattoos is likely to wane in the foreseeable future, you can understand how Virgin Atlantic have realised that rejecting potential employees because they have a tattoo is likely to significantly reduce the available talent pool to fill vacant positions. Something that is particularly relevant in an industry that is showing some fragility since the pandemic.

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.

Notwithstanding Virgin Atlantic’s decision, it’s not unreasonable for a business to maintain that its representatives present themselves to a certain standard. Where staff uniforms are not issued, 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 understandable then for an employer to insist that tattoos remain covered; the effect such a rule has on recruitment is up to the individual company to consider.

Also worthy of consideration is the trend for those who suffer hair loss to have a tattooed hairline and how they might feel about a tattoo ban.

We always advocate that you should employ the most suitable person for the job based on their ability and organisational fit, so it may be more realistic to establish a compromise or an acceptable level of body art. For example, tattoos that can easily be hidden by, say, long sleeves are acceptable whereas facial tattoos, obscenities, or anything likely to offend, are not.

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. The change of heart by Virgin Atlantic may herald a sea-change in employers’ attitudes more generally.

Visible tattoos will probably remain a subjective topic at least in the short to medium term so your rule of thumb for whatever stance you take is to maintain consistency across all workers and ensure your policy is clearly communicated.

For further help and support about this and other employee matters, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 1009 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 July 2022 21:52


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