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Are Tattoos Still Taboo for Employers?


Under UK law it is legal for employers to refuse to hire someone who has a tattoo – but, says Newbury employment lawyer, Andrew Egan, anecdotal evidence would suggest there is a still a great deal of unease around the whole subject of body art and job suitability.

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

He says the issue is becoming more problematic for employers as tattoos gain wider social acceptance and are now popular amongst women and the younger generation.

“The law tends to support employer dress codes and appearance policies in general so employers retain some flexibility in creating rules and policies which require employees to present themselves in a certain way,” says Andrew Egan, an employment lawyer with Newbury law firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall.

“Banning tattoos altogether, however, may still violate the law.”

Companies need clear policies based on relevant business issues and which are sensitive to the industry they operate in. Policies that prohibit tattoos should not reflect value judgments about tattoos or people who have them. Therefore, employers need to be aware of the discrimination related issues before writing and enforcing policies that prohibit visible tattoos at work.

“Historically, it is likely that more men wore visible tattoos than women,” says Andrew Egan. “As a result, an interviewer who notices a tattoo on a man’s arm may have no reaction.

“But as more and more women get tattoos, some of which are visible, the same interviewer may have an adverse reaction if a tattoo is visible, say, on a female applicant’s ankle. In this situation, an employer can be exposed to liability for sex discrimination if the presence of the tattoo was an issue in making the hiring decision.”

For employees, it may be a case of thinking about balancing the appeal of a new tattoo against the prospect of getting a good job.

For further information please contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

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October 7th, 2014 at 11:36 am