It is estimated that 35% of U.K. citizens aged 30-35 have tattoos. Tattoos are becoming a bigger part of mainstream culture and it is not unusual to see them on many of the people around us. However, many employers and workplaces still do not allow tattoos and will fire people because they have them.
Is this fair? Is it discrimination?
What Does the Law Say?
Having tattoos is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act of 2010. This means that aren’t protected from workplace discrimination or exclusion because you have tattoos. If you are rejected from a job because you are tattooed, this isn’t something you can file a discrimination claim for.
However, as with everything, there are a couple of tricky exemptions.
When a job does not have any dress code or regulations regarding physical appearance, firing you down the line because you have tattoos would be inappropriate. If someone has a tattoo that is related to religion or beliefs, this is also a more complicated matter. If someone is rejected from a job because they have a religious tattoo, this may become a discrimination case as religion is a protected characteristic in employment law.
Overall, there is no hard and fast rule about tattoos and employment in the workplace. It can be a complex case and for many people, it will bring disappointing results. It can be difficult to know that something you love can cause career disappointment and loss.
Arguments for Tattoos in the Workplace
While the Law doesn’t prevent you from being fired, rejected, or disciplined on the grounds of tattoos, that doesn’t mean that they are a “bad” thing. The societal opinions on tattooed people are greatly changing over time and we are seeing a lot of older attitudes changing and developing.
In fact, there are many arguments for why tattoos in the workplace can be a positive and beneficial thing. Such as:
- Allowing people to have visible tattoos at work grants them individuality and uniqueness. When people feel that they can be their true selves, they are much more likely to be happy and settled at work.
- If your employees have visible tattoos, it shows that you manage a workplace where people can be creative and expressive. It promotes a good company image to a clientele who also likes tattoos and self-expression.
- Tattoos don’t affect productivity or effectiveness. If you reject tattooed people from jobs you will be rejecting valuable workers from your company and narrowing your potential talent pool.
- Allowing tattoos creates a more inclusive workplace and improves diversity.
Allowing employees to have tattoos doesn’t have to be something worrying for your company. A tattoo-friendly work zone has quite a few attractive benefits and, in this modern climate, those benefits are only growing.
Arguments Against Tattoos in the Workplace
The arguments that some people still have against tattoos in the workplace include:
- Offensive tattoos can make customers and colleagues uncomfortable.
- In health and safety regulations, a new tattoo can be classified as an open wound for 2-3 weeks, so extra care must be taken.
- Some customers/clients may have negative opinions of tattoos and so if they see tattooed workers in your company this could potentially affect their loyalty.
- Some people may see a tattooed appearance as less professional and appropriate for work.
- Tattooed employees may not match your brand image.
Overall, apart from the aspect of health and safety, the reasons against tattoos in the workplace are less persuasive. They come down to personal opinions and societal attitudes, which are all subjective.
As time moves on, many companies seem to be moving away from these negative attitudes towards tattoos. This means that if you have these ideas about them and recruit accordingly, you may be missing out on amazing diverse candidates that your competitors are snapping up.
Everyone is legally allowed to have different opinions on this matter and that is ok too. But it is worth examining why you feel the way you do and whether any of it is to do with unconscious bias.
How to Find an Accessible and Inclusive Employer
If you want to be free to present yourself as you would like to, the best step is to find an accessible and inclusive employer that promotes diversity. Diversity-positive employers are much more likely to be agreeable with tattoos as they will want you to be your own individual self. Diversity-positive employers focus on your skills and attributes over what you look like.
To find such employers, you can take a look at our directory of company profiles on Aspiring to Include. We have a list of diverse employers for you to consider. We also have a live job board on which you can search for diverse and inclusive jobs in your area.
Everyone deserves freedom at work, find yours now.