How Visible Tattoo Rules are Changing the Workplace.

How Visible Tattoo Rules are Changing the Workplace.

You are perfect for the job. You have got all the experience the employer needs and you’ve turned up for the interview looking a million dollars.  But, as an increasing number of employees are finding, there may be a hidden issue that could cost you dearly: your tattoo.  But is that fair?

Earlier this year, Jo Perkins, a consultant in Milton Keynes, had her employment terminated because of a small, 4cm tattoo on her foot.  According to her employer, Ms. Perkins failed to abide by their “No Visible Inking” policy – a policy that required her to cover the tattoo up.

With 20% of UK residents having some kind of tattoo, the issue of visible tattoos affecting recruiting policy is likely to grow.  But the UK’s most tattooed man, property entrepreneur King of Inkland, feels that such policies could breach a person’s rights.

“People are a living canvas,” King of Inkland told HR Aspects Magazine.  “It is a person’s identity, at the end of the day.  It’s a shame that there’s this discrimination.”

When discussing requests for tattoos to be removed, as recently happened to a Starbucks barista in Michigan, USA, King of Inkland said, “It’s a formal way of bullying. The Equalities Act has a Belief/Religious Freedom element.  I’d argue that tattoos apply to this.”

In this and several other cases of dismissal or non-engagement, the employer concerned stated that they were acting within their legal rights.

Icons such as David Beckham, Cheryl Cole and even the Prime Minister’s wife have joined the long list of well-known people wearing visible tattoos.  So why is it that “ink” is still viewed as unacceptable by many employers?

We put the question to HR and employment expert, Charlotte Gallagher of P3 People Management in Hale.  We asked Charlotte her advice on how employers should deal with the issue and in so doing keep all parties happy.

Charlotte commented: “Society says tattoos are acceptable, cool, even sexy. However, employers in the workplace may have other ideas. From a recruitment perspective, if you have a dress policy which includes reference to ‘visible ink’ an employer must explain this to candidates and ask the generic question “do you have any tattoos that may not adhere to this policy?

“If an employee has had a tattoo whilst in employment, employers must consider if this is in breach of any policy or standards“, Charlotte added. “If not, then they may ask the question: what have they done wrong?”

Charlotte concluded, “Remember also, to consider if there may be a bigger issue here if, say, the tattoo is of religious or belief significance. There is more to this issue than what may appear only skin deep”.