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Tattoos in the workplace

A recent report published by ACAS has found that employees with visible tattoos still face discrimination in the workplace.

According to the report, the negative attitude towards people with tattoos can influence the recruitment process, as some employers are concerned about how they will be percieved by clients and customers.

It's estimated that one in three young people now have tattoos so businesses with this attitude could be missing out on recruiting talented employees. ACAS also highlighted that prejudicial attitudes towards body art could affect career progression and could potentially result in legal claims against businesses.  

The results of the study have caused ACAS to update their guidance note on dress codes in the workplace, and they now recommend that employers make clear any expectations they have towards tattoos.

The report notes that in both the public and private sector the main issue employers have with visible body art is the potential negative attitude of their clients and customers. Some employers also said they had concerns about the professionalism of a person with visible body art. This is particularly the case in more traditional businesses.

Sarah Naylor, specialist employment law solicitor, said: "Traditional attitudes towards visible tattoos and other forms of body art are changing over time. As body art is becoming more socially acceptable this is likely to lead to a softening of the approach to them in the workplace. However, in certain professions, such as the legal industry, there may always be an expectation that employees will have a more traditional or conventional appearance and changing attitudes are likely to take much longer."

Does your dress code policy include rules relating to body art?
If so, you should give careful consideration to the following:

Is there a risk of discrimination?
The Equality Act itself does not provide specific protection for individuals with body art. However, if a tattoo involves a religious icon and forms part of a religious belief, that could trigger protection from discrimination. Similarly, the rules applicable to body art should be the same for both male and female employees, otherwise there is a risk of sex discrimination.

Can the ban on visible body art be justified?
Consider the image the business wants to portay to their clients or customers and consider whether visible body art is likely to have any impact on that.

Improve staff acceptance
It may be practical to consider consulting with employees regarding the dress code policy as it is being developed. This will help to ensure the policy is fair and balances the needs of both the business and employees.

Make the policy clear and consise in its terms so that all employees know and understand what is expected from them.

Ensure the policy is communicated to all staff at the start of their employment and ensure that the policy is regularly updated, with all updates being properly communicated.

Enforcement of the policy needs to be consistent.

Finally, keep dress code policies under regular review and revise and update them whenever necessary to take account of changing attitues, trends and fashions.

If you need help with a workplace policy, contact us on 01302 320621 or email


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