Too Tattooed For Work?

With 1 in 5 Britons now having a tattoo, it doesn’t come as a surprise that tattoos are making their mark on the workplace. However, there are increasing reports of employees feeling discriminated against and almost victimised due to their tattoos.

The Equality Act 2010 states that it is possible to discriminate at the recruitment stage (or even earlier – at the advertisement stage). As with employees, applicants can be discriminated against in respect of one of the nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

However, with tattoos, unless it can be shown that the tattoo is linked to someone’s religion or belief, it is not actually discriminatory to refuse to employ someone because of their ink. Tattoos and piercings are specifically excluded from constituting a “severe disfigurement” under the disability discrimination legislation.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have produced guidance for employers to follow during the recruitment process and a detailed Code of Practice which urges employers to open up job opportunities to a variety of potential candidates so that the best talent can be sourced, whilst avoiding stereotypical assumptions.

It is not unlawful for companies to have anti tattoo policies, although with the increasing number of young people now getting tattoos, it may become more difficult for employers to turn away talent due to tattoos or even piercings. Likewise, with many petitions having been set up online and those with tattoos lobbying for the law to change, it is possible that it may amount to discrimination in the future.

Source: The Business Magazine October 2014

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