Anti-Tattoo Discrimination – Will It Affect Your Business?

With growing numbers of employees with tattoos, your business needs to define its policy. Research cited by the British Association of Dermatologists in 2012 states that one in five Britons now has a tattoo. As tattoos become more fashionable, and more visible, companies have had to deal with rising numbers of employees and applicants taking issue with rules about body art in the workplace.

Although this is not a legal issue in this country (however there are several e-petitions that wish to make it so), making a firm position on the topic can save hassle and potential action in the future.

What are the rules about tattoos?

Policies that restrict tattoos are commonplace in the UK. The law states that it is legal for managers to refuse to hire someone on the basis of their tattoos. Secondary legislation of the 2010 Equality Act specifically excluded tattoos and piercings from the definition of a severe disfigurement, on which basis an employer cannot discriminate, with the only exception being if the tattoo were connected to their religion or beliefs (which the employee would have to prove).

If you employ someone in a customer-facing role, or believe that their tattoos could cause offence, you are entitled to refuse them a job on that basis.

If a current employee decides to have a tattoo, that again may be perceived to be offensive or detract from their work, there could be grounds for fair dismissal. However, for this to take place your company needs to have a clear policy on tattoos and other body modifications.

What does my policy need to contain?

It is important to state your rules on tattoos, and ensure a fair policy for staff. You may need to protect your brand image and reputation; therefore visible tattoos (on the face or hands, for example) would not be appropriate. The subject matter and design of tattoos can also be an issue – tattoos may be considered offensive to your customers, for religious or racial reasons.

What are the implications?

With growing numbers of young people with tattoos, there may be a time where a blanket ban may not be so practical. You may find that, particularly if you need specialist skills, a no-tattoo policy may exclude talented people from your workforce. Smaller, less offensive designs may be more acceptable and you need to consider this within your policy.

To find out more about how a HR Policy for tattoos and body art will benefit your company, contact me today

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