Tattoos in the workplace

Morrish SolicitorsEmployment, Site NewsLeave a Comment

For years, tattoos were considered taboo in the workplace; with some employees alleging that their employment has been terminated as a result of having a tattoo or they have simply not been offered a job because of it. Traditionally, tattoos were associated with bikers and gangs, but this has evolved, with tattoos gaining wider social acceptance.

A recent study by Direct 365 found that 65% of the UK believe that a person’s visible tattoo (or tattoos) should not be held against them when going for a job interview. This is unsurprising, since a YouGov survey held in 2015 revealed that almost one in five people in Britain now have a tattoo of some kind.

Interestingly, more women (75%) than men (63%) were in favour of removing the stigma within the workplace.

The difficulty that employees face is the law still generally tends to support employer dress code policies, with employers still retaining the flexibility to create these rules. This being said, it does not always mean that all tattoos are banned; it depends on what and where the tattoo is. It of course also depends on the employer’s industry and the type of job that an individual does. I would suspect that an employer would perhaps not recruit a candidate with a large facial tattoo for a role which required frequent face to face appointments with clients.

It is very much still down to the employer’s discretion whether they hire someone based on tattoos, but there has been arguments made that discrimination of this kind should be made illegal. Currently, in the UK, laws on equality in the workplace do not cover those with tattoos as a ‘protected characteristic’, the only exception could be if they were religious or belief related markings.

If you were discriminated in the workplace due to a ‘protected characteristic’, for example, because of your race, then you would have good grounds for an employment claim under the Equality Act 2010. Many people believe that having tattoos should be added to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, as having one is frequently described as an extension of a person’s personality.

Should a person’s appearance matter if they have the correct skills required for the role? Until, and if, the law changes, having a tattoo may indeed set you back if you wish to work in the corporate world, but it is clear to see that in modern Britain there are strong arguments for change in this area.


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