What an Inky Situation!

So, you may have seen me posting out on my Twitter a poll relating to tattoos in the workplace and whether or not they should play a part in the selection process. Here is the outcome- out of the 42 votes I received on Twitter, 50% of participants thought tattoos shouldn’t play any part in the selection process. 43% thought it would depend on the location or what the tattoo was of. A tiny 7% of the 42 voters thought that tattoos should be taken into consideration in the selection process.

The Back Story

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to get myself a “real” career and recruitment was the choice. I attended a number of interviews, of which, only two stood out.  Firstly, the role I was offered and secondly, the one who stated, “I would never appoint you- not with THAT behind your ear”. This was referring to a tattoo behind my right ear.

At the time, I didn’t pay any attention this, but I am very aware that this topic comes up more and more and this got me thinking.

The Investigation

A fifth of the UK’s population has some form of tattoo and a whopping 30% of young adults are inked. Despite this and government data, there is no legislation in the UK to stop or attempt to eradicate tattoo discrimination.

In an investigation similar to this, DPG found that candidates with tattoo art are 64% more likely to be discriminated against.  DPG surveyed 1000 hiring/decision-making managers, where they asked a series of questions around tattoo’s and their thoughts on tattoos within the workplace. They decided to not target HR to see if this form of discrimination was going on without being noticed.

DPG found that the results were shocking! 64% thought that tattoos were undesirable in a candidate. These figures have the potential to be seen as discriminatory. DPG also found if faced with a non-tattooed candidate and a tattooed candidate with a similar skill level that 54% of half of the respondents would hire the non-tattooed candidate.

These findings by DPG do really spark the question – are half of the population limiting themselves in the ability to find work? Or are employers discriminating against tattoo art?

The Legislation

Currently, there is no UK legislation that will protect those workers or potential candidates from being discriminated against – unless the body art is of religious or cultural reasons (these are covered in the Equality Acts 210 under protected characteristics).

Do you think this legislation should change to protect those who have a tattoo for no other reason than they like them? Or do you think the legislation should change in favour of the employer? After all, employees represent the companies that they work with many being outward facing and being the “face” of the business.

The Dress Code Cover Up

Most organisations have a dress code or code of dress. This is a piece of the internal policy stating what is appropriate/inappropriate to wear at work. This will change depending on business and environment. The dress-code can be and is used as an important tool of shaping an organisations perception, not just in the public eye, but also to clients and other internal staff members.

As part of this policy, some businesses will state that members of staff with tattoos must have these covered at all times. Some will state that tattoos unless protected by the Equality Act of 2010, are prohibited.

I personally think that these policies are fair. What do you think? Do you think companies should be allowed to make employees hide their art?

Looking to the future – The crystal ball

So, what do we think the future will hold for tattoo’s in the work place? I personally think that with all of the underhand discrimination shown in the data, it could and probably will result in a number of cases being opened. I do however share with 43% of my voters, that it should depend on the location or the type of tattoo. There are a number of tattoos out there that could be seen as offensive to some and not others, for instance, members of the public would, I believe, rather not see police officers with facial tattoos-  although again this is open to the person.

Paul Drew, Managing Director at DPG Plc also commented on tattoo’s in the work place, stating - “It appears that tattoos are only growing in popularity, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a large discrimination case soon – potentially leading to increased protection for tattooed workers, similar to the recent developments in obesity legislation.”

Do you agree with Paul Drew? What is your view on tattoos in the work place? Do you think a change legislation is required?


Kieron Cartledge - HR Recruitment Consultant at Ashley Kate HR. Connect with him on Linkedin and Twitter







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