Tattoos in the workplace: Should employee appearance policies be relaxed?


Tattoos have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years and views on tattoos in the workplace are thought to be changing.

So should you relax your policies on employee appearance in the workplace?

Acas and King’s College have recently carried out research to explore how employers view staff appearance at work, including dress codes, tattoos and piercings.

Employers including McDonald’s and Starbucks are reported to have relaxed their stance on visible tattoos at work, however many employers still have concerns.

What are the current attitudes to visible tattoos in the workplace?

According to the research from Acas, there are continuing tensions surrounding appearance at work. Many employers in parts of the service sector are likely to disapprove of visible body modifications. This is due to a concern of how these will be perceived by potential customers or clients.

However, many employees hold a resentment towards the thought of being judged due to the way they look. For some there is the option of concealing tattoos or piercings with others simply leaving to find a more understanding employer.

The research does indicate that viewpoints are changing, with some employers reconsidering their strict “no tattoos” policies for front line staff.

Is this affecting the recruitment process?

During the recruitment process many employers will be forced to consider their position on visible tattoos in the workplace.

Would you decide to overlook a prospective employee due to the way they look? Could this lead to missing out on employing talented individuals?

These are considerations employers will need to make as tattoos and piercings become increasingly popular.

What should employers consider when taking decisions?

Although employees who display tattoos, piercings or any other body modifications are not covered by the Equality Act 2010, there considerations to make before setting out a policy on tattoos in the workplace.

Enforcing a strict no tattoos policy could result in disgruntled employees or the possibility of challenges on the grounds of breach of human rights.

If employees do begin to feel alienated due to this policy, it could negatively impact on staff morale.

As in most situations in the workplace, having clear policies in place is always best practice. You should make it clear to all employees what is acceptable what is not and explain why these decisions have been reached.

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